The Pro Football Hall of Fame welcomed a special group of young men on Thursday that are embarking on their professional careers in the National Football League.
The Cleveland Browns 2016 rookie class took a break in action during their annual rookie symposium, which teaches them about the life lessons of playing in the NFL, to take a trip to Canton, Ohio to learn about the rich history and the values of the game.
“Getting a chance to see all of this puts things in prospective for me,” said quarterback Cody Kessler who was drafted from the University of Southern California in the third round. “Just seeing where the game has come from and where it is today is amazing and it makes you want to carry on the tradition.”
It wasn’t the first time that Browns rookie offensive lineman Mike Matthews has visited the Hall. Matthews made the trip to Canton to see his dad, Bruce, get Enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
“It’s very humbling to be here,” said Matthews. “The first bust I checked out was my Dad’s and it’s pretty awesome to see. It’s always awesome to come home after practice and get coached by a Hall of Famer.”
Not only did players get the opportunity to hear lessons about the history of the game from Hall of Fame officials, but they were able see how the equipment has evolved. Browns first round draft pick wide-out Corey Coleman, from Baylor University, got the chance to try on first-hand the 1926 Duluth Eskimos’ uniform.
“It’s unbelievable how they played in that stuff,” said Coleman. “The shoes that they wore felt like wood, how did they run? It’s a great feeling that we get to experience a lot of history that the players put in time before us.”
The day meant so much to the rookies as they roamed the halls and soaked up all the knowledge about the great players that have paved the way for them. For undrafted free agent defensive back Tracy Howard from the University of Miami, football means so much more.
“The game of football has taught me discipline and patience,” said Howard. “Working hard, working smart and respecting others. Football has taught me all of those qualities. That’s why I tell people that football is a life game.”
The rookies were surprised by legendary Buffalo Bills guard and Gold Jacket Billy Shaw, who happened to be touring the museum. Shaw spoke to a few members of the team and told them to take advantage of every opportunity they'll have in the NFL.
At the end of the day, the 2016 Cleveland Browns rookie class received important parting words from Hall of Fame President David Baker.
“We want you to understand more than anything else, this is your second home,” said Baker. “Whether you have a 20-year career in the NFL or a two-week career in the NFL, to somebody in your community you are a legend.”
Baker also presented them with a lifetime pass to the Hall of Fame so they can visit their second home anytime.
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