Road to Canton started in Canton
A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday on Profootballhof.com.
Next Thursday we’re holding our popular Football 101: Ladies Night at the Hall of Fame. Legendary Los Angeles Rams Hall of Fame defensive end Jack Youngblood and his wife Barb will be on hand. The Youngbloods will talk some football, share stories, and even give a “X&O’s” tutorial to share their knowledge for those football “beginners” in attendance. They’ll also take the field next door at Fawcett Stadium for football drills. For those looking for a unique experience, it’s worth checking out. Last year, the event received rave reviews after Joe DeLamielluere and his wife Gerri thoroughly entertained all who came to the event.
Now, if you’re not a football “novice,” you know perfectly well that Thursday night also marks the long anticipated kickoff to the NFL’s 92nd season as the Green Bay Packers look to defend their Super Bowl championship. It all starts with the Packers hosting the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field. As the league’s slogan states, “Back to Football!” And, after the off-season we just experienced, never has that sounded so good. There’s no need to worry for those of you wanting to come hang out with Jack & Barb AND watch the game. Just put your DVR to work and we’ll do our best not to share any of the scoring updates from the game during our event!
Something struck me as interesting so much so that I decided it will be the topic of my weekly blog. I thought how perfect is it that Jack will be on the Fawcett Stadium field as the NFL season kicks off. After all, he began his great Hall of Fame career on the very same field!
Jack’s pro debut came in the 1971 Hall of Fame Game as the Rams started the season with a 17-6 win over the Houston Oilers in our preseason classic. Now, I think I’m safe in saying that Jack’s appearance next Thursday will be in far more glamorous conditions than his venture here as a rookie. First, the stadium isn’t the decrepit high school stadium it was 40 years ago. Today, Fawcett Stadium has field turf, nice locker rooms, and a state-of-the-art new press box. Also, Jack and Barb won’t have to drive here, we’re going to fly them in for the event (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you keep reading).
Back in ’71, Jack who was the Rams’ first-round draft pick came to Canton after being driven through the night from Chicago. He, and the Rams’ other first-rounder that year linebacker Isiah Robertson, had played in the Chicago College All-Star Game the day before. So the two prized rookies crammed into a car driven by a Rams staffer and made their way to Canton to begin their NFL careers.
You can imagine their surprise when they pulled up to Fawcett Stadium as they were excited to make their NFL debut.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice high school stadium, but this was our first game in the NFL,” shared Youngblood. It wasn’t quite the glitz and glamour he was expecting of the NFL!
As the story goes, he played well in the game and before long he had earned himself a starting position on one of the most dominant defensive front lines in the NFL. He played in a team record 201 straight games, earned All-Pro honors five times, and voted to seven straight Pro Bowls before he retired following the 1984 season. He finally earned his due with another trip to Canton for his enshrinement in 2001.
I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that he’s missed coming back for our annual Enshrinement Festival and he is also a regular at our yearly Golf Classic. And next Thursday he’ll be back again on the field where it all began.
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