A family trip to pay tribute

AP Photo Randy Moss waves to fans at the Charleston Town Center before his autograph session on Sunday in Charleston, W.Va.

The idea probably started six years ago.

When Randy Moss was nearing the end of his playing career, I mentioned to my son, Aaron, that when he gets elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, we were going to make the trip to Canton, Ohio for induction weekend.

So whenever Moss came up in conversation with Aaron after Moss retired — which was quite often, as Moss is on the short list of my all-time favorite Minnesota Vikings — one of us usually brought up the potential trip to the Hall of Fame.

Moss got the call to the Hall in February, and of course, the early August trip was mentioned.

So in mid-July, when the induction ceremony weekend was drawing near, plans started to fall in place for a four-day trip to the place where the National Football League was founded in 1920.

Former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was also a member of the Class of 2018 and my girlfriend Susan Price Saylor’s son, Ian, loves the Bears and was an Urlacher fan.

So Ian joined in the fun and made it a boys’ vacation for three.

The trip to Canton was our way of saying thanks to two of the best ever to play in the NFC North.

Moss mentioned in his speech Saturday night that he was glad that he was able to give fans some entertainment during his time with the Vikings.

He talked about the “true Minnesota Vikings’ fans” and how one day they will get the Super Bowl ring that they deserve. I saw a smile cross Aaron’s face.

I was certainly glad that we were there.

Urlacher mentioned in his speech that he finally had the chance to thank the loyal Bears’ fans for their support, as his time with the Bears didn’t end on the best of terms. I could tell that Ian was glad he was in attendance.

On Thursday, we attended the first game of the 2018 NFL season with the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame game featuring the Chicago Bears and the Baltimore Ravens.

Most of the starters on both teams didn’t play very much if at all since it is so early in the preseason. But preseason football was back, so that means real football isn’t that far away.

Friday’s agenda only had visiting the Pro Football Hall of Fame on it. I’ll get to that later.

Before we headed back into Canton to see the Hall of Fame, we made a side trip to the city of Akron in search of LeBron James’ former high school: St. Vincent-St. Mary.

While I said earlier that Moss is on the list of my all-time favorite athletes, there’s no question that LeBron ranks at the top of Aaron’s list. We found the school and took several pictures outside the school in front of the school.

We then found a small sign outside the school that said it was closed on Fridays, so we thought that would be the end of the visit to where LBJ played his high school hoops.

Boy, were we wrong.

As we started to walk back to our car, we see a couple of school facility workers on a golf cart, and one of them — named Roger — asks us what we are doing.

I ask if we can take a look around the gym where LeBron played. Doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

After a little hesitation, Roger says he can get us in if we don’t stay too long.

Once he took us in the gym that LeBron gave $1 million to renovate, his pride took over and gave us the whole tour, and told us several stories as he worked at the school when LeBron led the Irish to the 2003 national championship.

He took us back to the locker room where LeBron’s three lockers still are. Yes, three lockers.

We were told that LeBron had a locker for his gear, a locker full of college basketball letters that he never opened, and a locker full of college football letters that he did read.

We were also told that the Irish played one home game in their home gym during LeBron’s senior season — senior night. Due to the size of the crowds, all of the other home games were played at the University of Akron.

Chalk that one up to being in the right place at the right time.

Next stop in Akron was the LeBron’s brand new and beautiful “I PROMISE School” — yes, the one that President Trump tweeted about the day after we were there.

How anyone can say a bad word about what LeBron is doing for the children of Akron is beyond me.

We weren’t the only ones trying to sneak a peak of the school that LeBron built. The security guard who was letting visitors a few steps inside the front door to take photos told us that people having been stopping by nonstop since the school opened.

Next, we headed to the hall of fame.

If you are a football fan, you will enjoy the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If you are a fan of football, history and research, you will love the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

One could spend days in the hall and still not get to everything.

The biggest attraction was the room with the busts of all the hall of famers. It was amazing seeing all that history in one room.

It took me back to my childhood seeing the likes of some of my favorites (Vikings and non-Vikings) like Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Carl Eller and Earl Campbell and a recent favorite in Cris Carter. It was also neat to see the busts of the players from the decade of the 70s when I fell in love with football like Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett and Franco Harris.

I already mentioned the speeches by Moss and Urlacher Saturday night but we also heard inspiring speeches from other Class of 2018 members Robert Brazile, Bobby Beathard, Jerry Kramer, Brian Dawkins and Ray Lewis.

The largest fan bases over the weekend were for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Dawkins and the Baltimore Ravens’ Lewis — probably due to proximity. But there were plenty of Vikings and Bears fans in attendance as well, and the three of us were glad to be a part of it.

Now it’s time to get the 2018 football season started.

Skol Vikings!

Kirk Hardcastle is a former Messenger sports writer and a Fort Dodge Senior High graduate. He is the current sports information director at North Iowa Community College in Mason City.

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