The hobby’s greatest annual spectacle was held last week when dealers and collectors alike descended upon Chicago for the National Sports Collectors Convention. I attended the 2017 and 2018 Nationals as a member of the PSA staff and had a fantastic time working, meeting new people, catching up with good friends, and adding some fun stuff to my collection. I was unable to make the trip this year and while I certainly missed participating in the show, I had a good excuse for not attending. My wife and I were in Canton, Ohio, to watch Johnny Robinson’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Last year I wrote about how my posting of a football card on Facebook led to a Hall of Fame campaign for the great Kansas City Chiefs safety, and whether it was due to our influence or was just Johnny’s time to be recognized or, perhaps, a combination of the two, Johnny Robinson was named the senior inductee for the Class of 2019. In appreciation of my efforts, Johnny hosted my wife and I in Canton for Induction Weekend, and it was an experience I will never forget.
We arrived in Canton on Thursday morning, August 1, and after cruising around town for a while, we spent the afternoon and evening at the Fan Fest and Hall of Fame Game. Though the Broncos and Falcons were the only teams playing, it was really neat to see thousands of fans of all teams come together to celebrate the beginning of the football season. It’s probably the only time of the year that Packers and Bears fans laugh, joke and willingly pose for photos together, and it made for a wonderful atmosphere.
After walking all over the HOF campus and purchasing some Johnny Robinson goodies in the gift shop, we made it into the 23,000-seat Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium and watched the first hits, passes and touchdowns of the 2019 season.
Friday found us free until the evening, so we dedicated the time to touring the Hall of Fame and seeing all of the exhibits. As a PSA employee, I was proud to see the Hunt/Casterline Pro Football Hall of Fame Card Collection on display right near the museum entrance. The exhibit features one of the greatest football card collections in the hobby, the majority of which has been graded by PSA. Being an AFL and San Diego guy, I particularly enjoyed the 1963 Fleer Lance Alworth rookie card in PSA 10, which happens to be a Pop 1 card.
The HOF exhibits take fans through the history of the game and use several interesting videos to supplement the story. The most powerful area of the tour is undoubtedly the Hall of Fame Gallery, which houses the busts of all 326 inductees. Seeing the busts of the most important figures in the sport is a moving experience for football fans. However, my favorite part of the museum was Johnny Robinson’s locker, which houses several artifacts from his legendary career, including the helmet he wore in the Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV victory over the Minnesota Vikings, when he intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble while playing with three broken ribs.
Friday evening we attended the Gold Jacket Dinner, a formal event during which the members of the new inductee class are first given their famed gold jackets. We sat with Johnny’s brother and his family, and Kansas City Star columnist Vahe Gregorian, as more than 100 Hall of Fame members were introduced prior to the jacket presentations. While the HOF busts were very impressive, seeing all of these men together in one room was amazing. From Joe Namath to Terrell Davis, Jim Brown to Anthony Munoz, Troy Aikman to Carl Eller and all of the others in-between, the Gold Jacket Dinner was truly special.
The Kansas City Chiefs hosted a private party for Johnny Robinson on Saturday at noon. The event was held at a local country club and was an opportunity for Johnny and his friends to relax and enjoy themselves prior to the induction that evening. The room where the event was held had been beautifully decorated with large banners depicting Johnny at various stages of his life, from childhood through his post-football years. The food, drink and happy conversation was abundant, as Johnny posed for photos and signed autographs for friends and family. Teammates Smoky Stover, Willie Lanier, Emmitt Thomas and Jan Stenerud were also in attendance, telling stories and enjoying the festive atmosphere.
The crown jewel of the weekend was the actual induction, which began at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Tom Benson Stadium was again filled with football fans of all ages, who were treated to inspiring (and loooong) speeches by the inductees. Johnny’s acceptance speech was the only one that was prerecorded out of concern that a stroke he suffered several years ago might make it difficult for him to speak. Johnny presented himself perfectly, however, and spoke as though the stroke never occurred. It was a wonderful ending to an incredible experience that all began because of a football card.
PSA has been involved with the Pro Football Hall of Fame on many occasions, in addition to the display of PSA graded cards in the Hunt/Casterline exhibit. PSA has been on-site in Canton for several autograph authentication events. In addition, multiple Hall of Fame-based sets can be found on the PSA Set Registry, including the popular Pro Football Hall of Fame Rookie Players and Pro Football Hall of Fame Players/Coaches/Admin Rookie Autographs sets.