CANTON, Ohio (CBS4) – The first person to ever play football professionally did it in 1882, and the roots of the National Football League trace back to the 1920s in Canton. That’s why the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located there.
It wasn’t until about 40 years later that Denver got its own pro team, but CBS4’s Jeff Todd found that the 53 year history of the Denver Broncos is now hard to miss in the hallowed halls of Canton.
Todd stopped in Canton during his “Drive to the Championship” from Denver to the East Coast before the Super Bowl XLVIII between the Broncos and the Seahawks, and was given a special tour.
“One of the first artifacts in our museum that a visitor will see is this ball — the first ball used in the Bengals home opener. And their opponent was the Broncos,” said Hall of Fame Exhibits/Museum Services Manager Saleem Choudhry, who gave CBS4 the tour.
Inside the Hall of Fame, it’s also hard not to come across several exhibits about Denver’s first legendary quarterback. John Elway’s induction into the Hall of Fame in 2004 was the first for a Broncos player.
A sculpture of Elway’s head is on display along with all of the other Hall of Famers, and an exhibit meant to look like a locker features his jersey and uniform from the 1996 season.
A box of Elway’s Comeback Crunch cereal is also on display, and pays tribute Elway’s knack for leading big comebacks when he was a player on the Broncos.
Former offensive tackle Gary Zimmerman was the next Broncos player to be inducted — in 2008. Zimmerman’s Reebok cleats from the Broncos first Super Bowl victory in 1998 are on display.
“We want to make sure these artifacts are preserved hundreds of years after you and I are gone,” Choudhry said.
Running back Floyd Little was the next Broncos player to be inducted — in 2010. He has his own exhibit, which includes the helmet he wore during his rookie year and a jersey from his final year in 1975.
Tight end Shannon Sharpe was also inducted in 2011.
There are also two Broncos quarterbacks featured who aren’t in the Hall of Fame. A case that shows the jersey Peyton Manning wore in September 2013 when he threw for 7 touchdowns in a game against the Baltimore Ravens, a feat few other NFL players have ever done.
Tim Tebow’s jersey from the playoffs in 2011 when the Broncos beat the Steelers is also shown.
“It was the quickest game ending in overtime in history, and of course it happened in the playoffs just a couple of years ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Choudhry said.
There’s even a display showing the Broncos first uniforms, which Jeff Todd described as “hideous.”
Broncos players wear the original Denver Broncos jerseys in a game in October 2009. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
CBS4’s tour included a trip deep into the facility’s basement to find a gift the Hall of Fame was given by Barrelman, aka the late Broncos superfan Tim McKernan.
There’s even more Broncos memorabilia headed to the Hall of Fame. Kicker Matt Prater is so superstitious about his cleats that he told the hall he wouldn’t hand the ones he was wearing during the 2013 season over to them until the Broncos season ended. Prater set the NFL record on Dec. 8 for the longest-ever field goal with a 64 yard boot.