Inspiring the NFL’s future


Last week two of “our” family members – Hall of Famers Mike Haynes and Richard Dent – came for a visit to their second home, which is what they refer to us as. The two football legends were in Canton as part of the NFL’s annual rookie symposium. A combined 254 players who were drafted in April finished their four-day, league-mandated orientation with a tour of the Hall of Fame.

The AFC rookies visited on Wednesday, June 26 and their NFC counterparts followed suit on Saturday the 29th. The NFL has entrusted the Hall of Fame to give the raw rookies a crash course on the history of the game. A group of knowledgeable staff members guided the teams through the Hall’s exhibit areas touching on the important milestones that have helped shape pro football into this country’s favorite sport.

Then the group of draftees settled into our Event Center and listened to passionate and riveting talks from a true legend of the game.

Haynes, the great cornerback who split his playing days between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Raiders, spoke to the AFC rookies. It didn’t take long for the young men to understand what the Hall of Fame meant to Haynes. Before Haynes stepped to the podium, he and rookies viewed an impactful video produced by the NFL. It touched on the great heritage of the game and included an excerpt from Haynes as he delivered his enshrinement speech from the Hall of Fame front steps in 1997.  It also had footage of him on the football field.

In an instant, one could tell that Haynes found himself back in time almost as if he was ready to embark on another NFL season just as many of these young hopefuls will be doing in the very near future.

As the video played, you could see a huge smile fill Mike’s face. As the lights came up and he was making his way to the dais, you could see him wipe a small tear away. It was ever so apparent that this game has meant so much to him.

Haynes spoke with great emotion in the closed-door session to the rookies. We then caught up with him following his talk and he shared just how emotional he gets when he thinks about this great game he loves so much.

On Saturday, the 126 rookies drafted by the 16 NFC clubs closed out the 2013 NFL Rookie Symposium by hearing a message from Dent. They learned in very quick fashion what motivated one of the game’s great defensive ends. Just as fearlessly as he wreaked havoc on the football field, Richard laid it out for the rookies as he described what it takes to become successful in the NFL. He shed advice on a number of subjects for these young men as they embark on their career. It was easy for them to see the great pride that Dent has for the everlasting reputation he made on the gridiron.

It may take time for the 2013 draft class to have the messages fully resonate but assuredly they one day will trace success in their life, whether on or off the field, to the messages shared by two of the NFL’s greatest.

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