CANTON, Ohio– About 3,000 children ages 3 to 16 lined the streets of Canton on Wednesday forming a human chain. They passed a golden football officially starting the 2019 enshrinement week activities for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The ball started on Cleveland Avenue and Second Street, where the NFL officially began 100 years ago. The children who lined the 3-mile route were each given a special T-shirt with the names of the inaugural teams that started professional football.
Walking along the route to help encourage the children, and pick up any fumbles, was former Cleveland Browns lineman and Hall of Famer Joe Delamielleure.
“I was basically one of those kids. I grew up in Detroit. I’m the ninth of 10 kids and no one went to college in my family, except for me. I’m the only college graduate and so this gives you an opportunity. That’s what i think. These kids don’t know, there could be a Heisman Trophy winner in that line,” Delamielleure told FOX 8.
Along with him were fellow 2003 Hall of Fame enshrinees Elvin Bethea and James Lofton.
“It’s just a great time, and so Joe and Elvin and I all class of ’03 so we always get together and we don’t want to be the one who doesn’t do it,” Lofton said.
The children also encouraged by “Ultimate Fans” representing teams from across the country.
The ball was delivered on the doorstep of the Hall of Fame to its President David Baker and a host of other enshrinees. Baker accepting the ball saying it will be used to kick off the NFL’s centennial season when the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos, hoping to help inspire and encourage a new generation of fans at the start of a new century for the league.
Also there for the delivery was former Cleveland Browns receiver and return specialist Josh Cribbs.
“I was a kid that viewed the Hall of Fame when I was a kid. And to see this event it’s special and not only it kicks off the Hall of Fame game, but the season as well,” Cribbs said.
“There’s a newness about it. There’s an encouragement factor where you are encouraging these kids, you know. It’s the first play, but for them, every day is a new day and so they need that encouragement every day,” Lofton said.
“It was a great experience,” said 9-year-old Devin Sanders, of Lordstown, who was near the end of the route.
“It was very nice to see it and it’s very great,” said Dominic Scott, an 8-year-old who was there with Ray Scott, his youth football coach from Cleveland.
“It was great seeing the kids have fun, to see the ball, their first time seeing the ball get handed to them and throw it around. It was a great experience for them the first time coming down and seeing this,” Scott said.
In addition to the T-shirts, all of the children who participated were given free entrance to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, as well as lunch on the grounds.
“I’ve done this forever ever since I could get involved. I think it’s the best part of the Hall of Fame,” Delamielleure said.