Tribal Voice: Canton, DT Overwhelming

In all of my years covering the Kansas City Chiefs nothing made a bigger impression than the last 48 hours in Canton, OH. From my tour of the Hall of Fame to the induction of the great Derrick Thomas into an exclusive club of legends, I was left virtually speechless.

Friday we toured the Hall. The classic building that you've seen in photos does not give these hallowed grounds the justice it deserves. At first glance you wonder how such a small building could host so much NFL history, but it does.

As you enter the Hall you climb a spiral walkway that introduces you to the basic evolution of pro football. That exhibit leads you into the modern days of the NFL, and then you enter the room where the 253 busts are displayed.

The busts sit in a dimly lit room that gives you the instant feel of being in a room with great meaning. As you walk down the line, you feel the history of the greats wash over you. You respect and appreciate the game.

The word overwhelming doesn't even scratch the surface of the experience. Veteran NFL fans are in football heaven. The greats of the game stood in front of me and memories began rushing into my consciousness.

Of course it wasn't enough just to see Lamar Hunt, Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Len Dawson, Jan Stenerud, Mike Webster, Joe Montana, Marcus Allen, Warren Moon, Buck Buchanan, Marv Levy, Emmitt Thomas and Hank Stram. So it was appropriate that Derrick Thomas was the 15th member of the Chiefs to join the Hall of Fame.

The Hall's shrine was a marvel of NFL history. There was an entire room dedicated to the AFL and a new Super Bowl wing, named after the great Lamar Hunt. His stamp is all over this museum and the NFL has done a marvelous job of paying homage to the entire Hunt family.

In the special dedication Saturday morning, Norma Hunt spoke to the gathering and it was evident that this football family was truly something special. We talk about winning and losing but we don't always think about the incredible amount of work the Hunt family has done, all in the name of football and Kansas City. Rest assured it's not gone unnoticed by the NFL and the new Super Bowl wing is truly amazing.

As the day went on and the actual induction ceremony came closer, I began to think about how much Derrick Thomas would have loved the event. Over the last few months, I've spent time with his family and friends. Had he accepted his induction personally Saturday night, he would have had a smile so wide that it would have lit up the entire stadium.

I went to Canton as a fan and I leave a bigger fan. It was something I'll never forget. Meeting the other Hall of Fame inductees and players like Willie Brown, Jim Kelly and Moon was unbelievable.

This weekend there were no team allegiances of any kind. Sure, the crowd was very pro-Buffalo, but they showed respect for the other inductees, including Thomas.

The most powerful moment was watching Derrick's son, Derrion, handle himself with so much class. He shook every hand, talked to reporters, joked with his friends and family, and wore the badge of honor for his father. Derrick would no doubt be proud.

There wasn't any question that Thomas belonged in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, but it simply wasn't his time. However, now his time has finally come, and every fan of the Kansas City Chiefs should be proud of the fact that this young man from the harsh streets of Miami got out, found his calling at the University of Alabama, and grew up right before our eyes as a Chief.

He was a remarkable, amazing man who gave back to the fans, the community and left a legacy with his Third and Long Foundation that will help generations of children for decades to come.

Today I consider myself blessed to be a part of something so amazing. Even though some of my idols had already been inducted into the Hall of Fame, it was a joy to witness Derrick Thomas take a place among the NFL's elite.

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