CANTON, Ohio _ The Tennessee Titans tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday provided players with plenty of memories and a new appreciation of the game.
Titans players and staff toured the Hall for an hour while induction ceremonies were going on at Fawcett Stadium, where the Titans and Buffalo Bills kick off the NFL preseason Sunday evening.
Titans players and staff arrived and were greeted there by team owner Bud Adams, who according to general manager Mike Reinfeldt, welcomed all of them there.
“I think it was a wonderful thing. Mr. Adams was actually there, and he welcomed the team and shook everyone’s hands when we got there,” Reinfeldt said. “I think the chance to walk around the facility and see everything is an amazing thing.”
For most, entering the room where the busts of the players enshrined in the Hall of Fame was the most special part of the private tour.
“You learn to appreciate the history of the game and some of the great players and great teams, and the accomplishments that happened,” DE Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “It was neat to see all the busts [of the Hall of Famers], because of all the NFL players, those are the best of the best.”
Linebacker Keith Bulluck agreed, being one of a number of players to record the proceedings. Bulluck also had is own special tribute for the Hall, donning a classic Walter Payton No. 34 jersey on the trip.
“First, I had a Houston Oilers [No. 9 Steve] McNair jersey on, but then I came down and Vince [Young] had it on,” Bulluck said. “Being the vet that I am, I always have backup. I wanted to wear the Walter Payton one, because he’s actually in the Hall of Fame, and out of all the Hall of Famers that popped into my head, he actually is one of my favorites. I had his jersey and I just wanted to wear it.”
The Titans offensive line got kick out of seeing the busts of their own position coach Mike Munchak among the enshrinees, as well as that of former Titans star lineman Bruce Matthews.
“That was cool. Being coached by a player that is actually in the Hall of Fame is pretty cool, and everybody in our o-line room knows Bruce Matthews, and everybody posed for pictures with Bruce’s bust,” center Kevin Mawae said. “So it’s pretty neat. We’ll have some jokes I’m sure come Monday morning when Munch gets back in our room.
“It was a pretty reverent deal for the o-line group to go in there and see Bruce’s bust and Munch’s bust. It was pretty special.”
There are those who believe Mawae himself, entering his 16th NFL season, could someday find himself in Canton as a Hall of Fame member. But the veteran center was having none of such talk this weekend.
“Even if you have a chance, you don’t talk about it. It would be special, but my goal right now is to play football. As soon as we pulled up, some guys said something, but I said we’re not going to talk about it,” Mawae said. “You just don’t do it. It’s sac-religious to do it.
“There’s only 200-something men enshrined and 20,000-something that played at least one game. Those men in that room, they deserve it, they earned it and they deserve every bit of respect you can give them. And one part of that is not talking about it if you’re still an active player.”
As for connections, probably no one could match Reinfeldt, who counted having associated with no less than 16 Hall of Fame players in his career that began as a rookie with the Oakland Raiders, playing for John Madden and Al Davis, and continuing through his Oilers years with Matthews, Munchak, Earl Campbell and Elvin Bethea.
“I played with 16,” Reinfeldt said. “John Madden was my coach my rookie year, and Al Davis was the owner, and there were 14 guys who were my teammates [with the Raiders and Oilers]. You look at it, it kind of takes your breath away.”