Billy Shaw, the only member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to play his entire career in the American Football League, was one of nearly sixty enshrinees on hand for the 2002 Enshrinement Celebration. He arrived in town on Thursday August 1 and as he sat in the museum's front office, it was the contents of his duffel bag that made his visit extra special.
Many people have been in pursuit of those items ever since the former Buffalo Bills' all-league guard was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999. Included in the bag were the only pieces from his playing days that he still owned. They included three Buffalo Bills jerseys, an AFL All-Star jersey, his helmet, and shoes.
"Once I got into the Hall of Fame," Shaw related, "it's amazing how many people called to see if I had any memorabilia."
The only mementos he had from his career, that spanned from 1961 to 1969, were uncovered when he moved from his house in Louisiana to George in 1973. The items remained in the duffel bag in a storage room underneath his house until he sold that home in 2000.
Fortunately for the Hall of Fame, Shaw shunned numerous offers from sports collectors. "The price kept going up and up," he commented, "but I wouldn't have sold them if I didn't have a penny!"
Billy, and his wife Pat, agonized over the fact of finally giving up the only things that he had left from his career. After procrastinating for a couple of years, Shaw ultimately came to the decision that he would donate the mementos to the Hall of Fame.
"I came to a peace with it. There is no greater place for them than the Hall of Fame," he said.
Shaw continued to reflect on how he was so thankful that his grandchildren were old enough to share and understand the great honor bestowed upon him when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame on August 7, 1999.