CANTON: Emcee Rich Eisen warned the standing-room-only crowd packed into the Canton Memorial Civic Center that was gathered for the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinees’ Gold Jacket Dinner that there would be plenty of tears.
In fact, the NFL Network anchor and former popular ESPN sportscaster urged the gridiron greats who were about to become the seven newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Curley Culp, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells, Dave Robinson and Warren Sapp — to just “let the emotions flow.”
The often-outspoken Carter probably didn’t need to be told to allow his tough guy image to fall by the wayside for the evening. But with the added encouragement, the former Ohio State wide receiver unapologetically let loose.
With tears flowing down his cheeks as his name was called, Carter allowed 16 NFL seasons worth of football emotion to flow as he began the long walk through a crowd of the who’s who of the hall’s gold-jacket members, stopping often for a bear hug or whispered words of congratulations from the sport’s royalty.
Ironically, one of the hall’s most hallowed members — legendary Browns running back Jim Brown — was the only returning member not wearing his coveted gold jacket. Instead, Brown sported a navy-blue suit.
Still, Brown’s odd choice of attire was dressier than that of fearsome New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor, who topped off his evening wear with black Nike flip-flops.
Brown and Taylor were part of a record 120 hall of famers who made the annual pilgrimage to Canton on Friday to participate in the weekend’s festivities that will be highlighted by tonight’s official enshrinement at historic Fawcett Stadium.
With so much traffic to make his way through, by the time Carter made it to center stage where he was engulfed in bright floodlights and given a rousing standing ovation, he’d worked himself into a first-pumping frenzy.
A little later, Baltimore Ravens tackle Ogden a little more stoically made his way to center stage for the night’s beginning introductions, where he was warmly, albeit ironically, embraced by Browns hall of famer and Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome.
Akron native and former Green Bay Packers linebacker Dave Robinson kept a lid on his emotions as well, even as the 12-year NFL veteran was greeted by his son bearing the same name while the applause rained down on them.
In addition to the inductees, veteran television announcer Al Michaels was honored as the recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, an annual award recognizing the longtime exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.
When the upcoming NFL season kicks off, it will begin Michaels’ eighth year as the voice of Sunday Night Football. For the previous 20 years, he’d served as the play-by-play man for Monday Night Football.
Longtime NFL writer and Chicago Tribune columnist Dan Pompei was honored with the Dick McCann Award for his distinguished reporting.
With the evening’s program running behind but the emotions still going strong, the inductees were finally called up to the stage in alphabetical order and received their gold jackets following a three-minute video tribute.