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Eagles fan visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton? Here’s what you need to know.

Philadelphia Inquirer logo Philadelphia Inquirer 8/1/2022 Rob Tornoe, The Philadelphia Inquirer

If you’re an Eagles fan, Dick Vermeil’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the perfect reason to pack your bags and head to Canton, Ohio.

The Hall of Fame, which opened its doors in 1963, is like walking through a classic NFL Films highlight reel, 118,000 square feet devoted to the history of football and a celebration of the country’s most popular game. You can almost hear the booming voice of John Facenda narrating as you walk from exhibit to exhibit.

It’s not a short drive to Canton from Philadelphia — the boring car ride across Pennsylvania into eastern Ohio will take about seven hours. But even if you can’t make it to Vermeil’s induction ceremony Saturday, there’s plenty for Eagles fans to see and do.

Here’s everything you need to know if you decide it’s time to plan a trip:

Who is in the Hall of Fame Class of 2022?

Vermeil is one of the Eagles’ most successful coaches, turning around a flailing franchise and leading the team to its first Super Bowl appearance in the 1980 season. While Vermeil would later win the Super Bowl as coach of the then-St. Louis Rams, he made a point of going into the Hall of Fame representing the Eagles.

“Yes, I coached the Chiefs. Yes, I coached the Rams. And I loved those experiences,” Vermeil told NBC10 in June. “Philadelphia is my home team. It’s where I live and deeply identify with the community.”

In addition to Vermeil, the Hall of Fame Class of 2022 features six former players and the Hall’s first NFL referee (who happens to be from Philadelphia).

They are:

  • Tony Boselli: The five-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman played his entire seven-year career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was selected to the NFL’s all-decade team of the 1990s, even though he was drafted in 1995 and played only half of the decade.
  • Cliff Branch: The speedy receiver spent his entire 14-year career hauling in passes for the Oakland Raiders, which he helped lead to three Super Bowl victories in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
  • Leroy Butler: The four-time All-Pro safety played 12 seasons in Green Bay, where he was a key member of a revamped defense that led the Packers to two Super Bowls, including a victory over the New England Patriots in 1997.
  • Art McNally: The Philadelphia native and Temple grad is known as the “Father of Instant Replay” for his role introducing the system to the NFL. His career in the league as an official and supervisor spanned 48 years, until his retirement in 2015.
Philly’s Art McNally was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The referee tells stories about the enshrined.
  • Sam Mills:The Jersey Shore native wasn’t drafted out of Montclair State, but that didn’t prevent him from becoming a five-time Pro Bowler with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers, where he stayed on as an assistant coach until his death from cancer in 2005.
  • Richard Seymour:A seven-time Pro Bowler, Seymour anchored a defensive line that helped lead the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory in 2002. Seymour’s career lasted 12 seasons, and he was named to the NFL all-decade team of the 2000s.
  • Bryant Young: A dominant defensive lineman, Young spent 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, where he was a key part of their 1995 Super Bowl victory. Young was passed over by the Hall of Fame for nine years before five former rivals lobbied on the quiet defender’s behalf.

What is the schedule for enshrinement week?

  • Thursday: Hall of Fame game, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Las Vegas Raiders, 8 p.m. (NBC10).
  • Friday:Enshrinees’ gold jacket dinner, 5 p.m. (ticket required).
  • Aug 6:Class of 2022 enshrinement ceremony, noon (ESPN, NFL Network).

Why is the Hall of Fame in Canton?

Even though it is not home to a franchise, Canton is where the NFL was born.

The meeting that formed the American Professional Football Association, which was later renamed the National Football League, took place in August 1920 in the showroom of car salesman Ralph Hay, who owned the now-defunct Canton Bulldogs football team.

Fourteen teams played during the inaugural season; two remain in the NFL today — the Chicago Cardinals (now known as the Arizona Cardinals) and the Decatur Staleys (who moved to Chicago in 1921 and have been called the Bears since 1922). The Eagles joined as an expansion team in 1933 as a replacement for the Frankford Yellow Jackets, who played eight seasons in North Philly. (The Eagles kept the team’s blue and yellow color scheme for several years.)

The NFL awarded Canton the right to build the Hall of Fame in 1961, and the museum opened to the public in September 1963.

What to expect visiting the Hall of Fame

The Hall of Fame is 118,000 square feet of football history divided into two floors, and it will take three to four hours if you want to see everything.

Exhibits are displayed chronologically, beginning with the history and origins of the league, including the original franchise certificate for the Philadelphia National League Football Club signed by former NFL president Joe Carr in 1933.

Standing in the center of the two-floor circular exhibit is a bronze statue of Jim Thorpe, the gifted athlete whose fame helped popularize professional football. Thorpe was also the first Native American to win a gold medal at the Olympics, and the Pennsylvania town of Jim Thorpe (where his remains lie after a contentious legal battle) was named after him.

Among the notable artifacts on display are the football from Peyton Manning’s record-breaking 509th touchdown pass, Jim Brown’s famed No. 32 Cleveland Browns jersey, and the original 2000 NFL draft card featuring Tom Brady’s selection in the sixth round. For history buffs, one cool piece of memorabilia is the football from the 1958 NFL championship game between the then-Baltimore Colts and New York Giants, considered by many to be the greatest football game ever played.

Two theaters play movies on a loop — one presents last season’s road to the Super Bowl on a 40-plus-foot screen with booming sound, and the other brings holographic versions of Joe Namath, George Halas, and Vince Lombardi to life.

For an added fee (admission to the Hall is $33 for adults, plus $10 for parking), fans can also take a VIP tour of Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, which hosts the first NFL preseason game every August during enshrinement week.

The Hall of Fame’s bust room is worth the visit alone

With this year’s class, the museum is now home to 362 bronze busts of every player, coach, or executive voted into the Hall.

It may sound cheesy, but it’s an intimidating experience standing face-to-face with life-size busts of athletes you grew up rooting for and against. The vibe of the room is quiet and respectful, with the busts winding around the walls in the order they entered the Hall.

The Eagles are represented by 12 Hall of Famers who made the primary contributions of their careers in Philadelphia. Other Hall of Famers, such as Terrell Owens and Cris Carter, played for the Eagles but spent the bulk of their careers elsewhere.

The Hall of Famers representing the Eagles are:

  • Eagles cofounder Bert Bell (1963)
  • Quarterback Steve Van Buren (1965)
  • Linebacker Chuck Bednarik (1967)
  • Eagles head coach Earle “Greasy” Neale (1969)
  • Wide receiver Pete Pihos (1970)
  • Quarterback Sonny Jurgensen (1983)
  • Halfback Tommy McDonald (1998)
  • Defensive end Reggie White (2006)
  • Offensive lineman Bob “Boomer” Brown (2014)
  • Safety Brian Dawkins (2018)
  • Wide receiver Harold Carmichael (2020)
  • Head coach Dick Vermeil (2022)

The busts for this year’s inductees will be added to the gallery on Sunday, the day after they are unveiled.

This year’s Lombardi Trophy is on display

If you think the Eagles have a fair chance to win the Super Bowl this season, you can see the actual Lombardi Trophy that will be handed out in Glendale, Ariz., in February.

The trophy is secured behind a thick plastic partition, so you won’t be able to smudge it up with your fingers. It anchors an exhibit featuring artifacts and jerseys from the 56-year history of the Super Bowl, including the surprising origin of the championship game’s now-household name.

“My wife had given three small balls, Super Balls, they were called, to my three children at the time. It was a child’s toy that you could literally bounce on concrete and it would bounce over a house. … I said it sounded like Super Bowl,” said Lamar Hunt, the founder of both the American Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs, according to a display. “We had no market research and if we had done market research we’d still be there 40 years later trying to figure out a good name for the game.”

Will I see a lot of Eagles items on display?

The Eagles are well-represented.

For starters, there is an entire locker exhibit devoted to the new inductees. Featured in Vermeil’s display is his 1969 Los Angeles Rams special-teams playbook (the season he became the NFL’s first special-teams coach) and the Eagles hat and polo shirt he wore while roaming the sidelines of Veterans Stadium in 1976.

As you’d expect, there are also a lot of artifacts from Super Bowl LII, including the game ball and the Eagles’ Super Bowl ring, which features 219 diamonds (and is part of a display of every Super Bowl ring). Nick Foles’ jersey from the game is also on display, sandwiched between jerseys worn by Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Tom Brady (who is still answering questions about why he didn’t shake Foles’ hand following the Patriots’ loss to the Eagles).

There are also a couple of more recent items, including the gloves of former Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who became the first player in NFL history to haul in touchdowns in consecutive weeks for two different teams last season after being traded to the Arizona Cardinals.

From Brian Dawkins’ Bible to Nick Foles’ helmet, 9 historic Eagles items at the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Is the Hall of Fame kid-friendly?

It depends on the kid. There are a number of interactive exhibits that appeal to children, including hand and leg molds of some NFL greats and football helmets with microphones that recreate the coach-to-quarterback game experience. There’s also a field outside the main hall where kids can run, throw a football, and test their 100-yard-dash time.

But if your child is under age 7 or 8 and isn’t particularly football obsessed, chances are good they’ll get bored pretty quickly. Although there are several video game systems where kids can play Madden NFL.

Driving to the Hall of Fame from Philadelphia

You have two main routes to choose from to make your way west across Pennsylvania and into Ohio: I-76 or I-80.

If you’re looking to save a few bucks, I-80 is certainly your best choice. Both routes are long, boring drives that will take close to seven hours, but there aren’t any tolls on I-80. Depending where you live in or around Philadelphia, taking the slightly longer route could save you upward of $80 round-trip.

But if speed is your primary concern, taking I-76 could save you nearly an hour’s worth of driving round-trip, not accounting for traffic.

If you’re not in the mood to drive, you can catch a flight from Philadelphia to Akron or Cleveland from a number of airlines. A direct flight will get you to Ohio in under two hours, but tickets remain costly and you’ll have to take an Uber or Lyft everywhere or rent a car.

Other things to do in and around Canton

There’s certainly enough to do in and around Canton to justify a long weekend to check out the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Cleveland is just an hour away, and you can purchase a combo pass that gets you into both the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Depending on when you travel, it’s also worth checking out a Cleveland Guardians game at Progressive Field (known locally as “The Jake”), which is regularly voted one of the best stadiums in baseball.

If you’re looking to remain in Canton, history buffs can check out the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum (800 McKinley Monument Drive NW), which features artifacts and exhibits highlighting the often-overlooked 25th president, who was assassinated following his second inauguration in 1901. Among other things, McKinley’s tomb sits atop a hill with more steps than the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There’s also the First Ladies National Historic Site (205 Market Ave. South), located at the ancestral home of First Lady Ida Saxton McKinley.

If you have a sweet tooth, you can take a free tour of the Fannie May chocolate factory (5353 Lauby Rd. in North Canton), which is owned by the Italian chocolate company Ferrero. There’s also the Troll Hole Museum (228 E. Main St. in Alliance), home to the world’s largest collection of troll dolls, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. MAPS Air Museum (2260 International Parkway, North Canton) has 50 aircraft on display, spanning more than 100 years of aviation history, including Top Gun’s famed Grumman F-14.

Canton’s obsession with football extends into its downtown, where several public art installations and murals celebrate the history of the NFL. Centennial Plaza, built to honor the NFL’s 100th anniversary in 2020, features a massive outdoor television where you can enjoy beer and a sandwich from Jerzee’s Café (330 Court Ave. NW) while watching a game.

Places to eat while you’re visiting the Hall of Fame

It certainly won’t be hard for you to find a beer while you’re in Canton, where practically every other shopping center is home to at least one craft brewery.

One spot recommended by several Hall of Fame staffers was Royal Docks Brewing Co. (7162 Fulton Dr. NW, Canton), which has two locations in Canton and one in nearby Massillon. Not only did they have an extensive beer selection (Downstream Jam, their tangy dark cherry sour, was the standout), their menu was littered with interesting items ranging from a scotch egg flatbread to fried deviled eggs topped with an avocado whip.

If you’re looking for more restaurant, less brewery, check out Table Six Kitchen + Bar (6113 Whipple Ave. NW, North Canton), a laid-back gastropub with a terrific smash burger topped with a special house-made sauce and addictive sweet and spicy pickles. The restaurant is owned by Greg and Amy Goehring, a husband-and-wife duo who also run three other spots in the area.

Another place recommended by Hall of Fame staffers was Basil Asian Bistro (585 Market Ave. North, Canton) downtown. The menu features Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Thai dishes (you can’t go wrong with their Pad Thai), as well as a large vegetarian and sushi menu.

If you’re sick of your hotel’s free continental breakfast, one spot worth stopping by is Twisted Citrus (1649 N. Main St., North Canton). You might be overwhelmed by the Christmas decor flooding the restaurant, but its eclectic brunch menu will win you over. I opted for three very-filling breakfast tacos (stuffed with chorizo) but skipped the morning margarita, made with orange and lime juice.

©2022 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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