Words cannot describe the excitement I felt when I first walked into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. I touched down on Friday, a day before the enshrinement ceremony. Knowing that the following day would be packed, I was able to go through the entire museum to look at the history of the game.
The museum is truly amazing. Right when I walked in, there stood a statue of the great Jim Thorpe. Up the walkway presented a historical timeline of the game, from the beginning to today's players.
Everything you can imagine about football, you saw it there. There were artifacts and memorabilia from nearly everything in the game. From Super Bowls, to game-used items from 2009, to uniforms from Hall of Famers, nothing in the museum was more exciting than seeing the busts.
It's funny that when you're a rookie, you avoid becoming a bust. But when you play at the highest level, you get a bust. Seeing the busts of great legends like Y.A. Tittle, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana and Steve Young really just got me excited about what Jerry Rice was in store for. There was no line on Friday to see the busts. The next two days featured lines that crossed into other exhibit halls.
The first day was just filled with excitement in seeing the history. However, the whole entire point of the trip was to see Rice and to celebrate his historical career.
I got into the enshrinement ceremony about an hour before the ceremony started. With the stadium filled with fans (sadly, more Cowboys fans than 49ers fans) and the sun setting, the ceremony started. With so many Hall of Famers in attendance, it was great to see such a huge collection of great heroes of the game all in one place.
The speeches given by Dick LeBeau and Russ Grimm brought great laughter to the crowd and it seemed magical just to have these former players reminisce on their past. But when Jerry Rice's turn came up, the crowd went wild. I even went crazy for the legend.
As you may have seen on TV, the speech he gave was beautiful. In typical Rice fashion, he delivered with poise and grace. The very humbled Rice admitted that he played out of fear of failure. And because of that, he wanted to soak up the glory for the first time in his life after focusing so much on his work.
I went crazy celebrating what Rice had accomplished. And even being surrounded by Cowboys fans, they respectful. Despite being part of the enemy, they knew great talent when they saw it. And as I stood there, I was just in complete bliss.
Growing up celebrating Rice as a young fan, seeing him receive this honor was a moment I will never forget. And being a huge history buff, this was a perfect way for me to really soak up a great weekend.
On Sunday, I returned to the Hall for one more day. It was a simple day as I walked around and checked out the other tents they had set up for fans. That evening, it was the Hall of Fame game. In such a small stadium, being able to walk around and be five feet away from Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens was pretty neat as well.
I know I didn't detail everything from my trip. But just being there to celebrate Rice was an experience I will never forget. Sitting there surrounded by different people from different places all over the world to celebrate the great wide out was something I couldn't have pictured in my wildest dreams.
Throughout this weekend, I took a step back from being a 49ers reporter and became a fan again. The game is different for me now these days as I was thrown into the mix of dissecting the game of football as a writer. But for the weekend, I was like that five-year-old kid that just got into football. I was a fan and it was the best football experience of my life.
I now wait for the day that Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. gets his rightful place to join Rice in the Hall of Fame. That's when I will return to the Hall to live it all over again.