The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first-ever Fan Fest was held over the weekend with thousands of fans mingling with the star-studded lineup of 100 Hall of Famers. The event marked the most Hall of Famers gathering in one place outside of Canton, Ohio.
“It was an extraordinary weekend of celebrating the excellence that our Hall of Famers represent,” commented Hall of Fame President David Baker. “Seeing the fans’ love for the game is what this weekend celebration was all about.”
Fan Fest took place in the expansive I-X Center in Cleveland and included unprecedented access to the Hall of Famers through
incredibly popular one-on-one photo opportunities for fans with their favorite Hall of Famers, instructional drills on a 100-yard indoor football field, fun and engaging games and activities, and roundtable talks.
The roundtables were hosted by a variety of moderators including legendary Larry King who solicited heartfelt stories from the football legends. The Hall of Famers shared inside perspective on the Game and the values learned during their spectacular football careers.
One such example was Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent
, who was joined in a session on Sunday morning by linebackers Dave Robinson
and Dave Wilcox
along with tight end Jackie Smith
. The man who retired as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver spoke passionately about an unstable upbringing. He talked about how his father left the home at a young age and how his mother remarried but to an alcoholic. He described how the game of football was an outlet for him to get out of his unstable home environment. Largent’s story of perseverance was illustrated by how he rebounded from being cut by the Houston Oilers in his rookie training camp and embarked on a Hall of Fame career with the Seattle Seahawks. In 1995, he was sworn in to the United States Congress and elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame within weeks of each other. Largent’s success in life has continued as he has served since 2003 as the President and CEO of the CTIA-The Wireless Association, a lobby for the cellphone industry. Last October, he announced that he will retire in June.
Fans of all ages were awed by the football paradise that included the one-man Vegas act by Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw
, interactive games, football “combine” drills for kids, a large merchandise store, vendors’ alley, sports bar and game lounge, and a theater that allowed fans to have their football memorabilia appraised. The large menu of activities was included in the price of the admission ticket. Additionally, many Hall of Famers participated in special autograph sessions and a Saturday golf outing at nearby Firestone Country Club.
The indoor field was bustling throughout the weekend. Drills and mini-clinics were conducted by Hall of Famers as well as staffs from the Hall of Fame’s Educational & Youth Programs, USA Football, and the Cleveland Browns along with several local high school teams. The schedule also included “heads-up” clinics to teach young players about safe tackling techniques.
"Everything was great. The kids had a blast," the Browns Manager, Youth Football Johnathan LaForce commented
In addition, the John Carroll University team put on a practice session after which their school’s new Defensive Coordinator Chris Shula was joined by John Carroll’s head coach Tom Arth in an appearance with Chris’ legendary grandfather and one of the school’s most famous alumnus, Don Shula
Mike Guiterrez of Heritage Auctions was on hand throughout Fan Fest to provide free appraisal of fans’ memorabilia.
“I have been to hundreds of these conventions and this was unique,” he commented. “Fans really got to meet, know and hear from the Hall of Famers. I would pay $200 for this event!"
Fan Fest is an annual event that will travel to different locations across the country. The site for the 2015 Fan Fest will be determined in the near future.
Fan Fest in the News