Philadelphia Eagles News

Rookies inspired by field trip to Pro Football Hall of Fame

CANTON, Ohio Things temporarily quieted down at the NovaCare Complex last weekend as the final phase of OTAs wrapped up.

The brief time off before mandatory minicamp allowed most of the players to take a short breather from football activity.

For the team's rookies, however, it was time for a field trip.

But this was no ordinary field trip. The Eagles who are just beginning their professional careers took a trip to the one place they all hope their football journey ends: Canton, Ohio.

Canton is small and quiet, but it is home to the most hallowed ground in professional football: the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And on a calm, sunny Saturday morning, the Eagles' rookies had the chance see the illustrious history of the great game of football in person.

Most of the artifacts within the Hall are much older than the players, but that did not stop them from having an appreciation for what those pieces of history represented.

The Eagles' history, which goes all the way back to 1933, is well documented in Canton, and the rookies got to see a slice of that history in the form of Reggie White's shoes, the jacket Chuck Bednarik wore to the 1960 NFL Championship Game, and Norm Van Brocklin's jersey from that same historic afternoon.

First-round pick Andre Dillard had to don a pair of special caretaker gloves to get his hands on a pair of cleats that former Eagle Phil Ragazzo wore during the 1940s. They were the only pair of cleats Ragazzo wore during his two-year career, a far cry from the dozens of pairs players go through today.

"This is crazy," Dillard said as he marveled at the shoes. "This is so cool."

The players also got to see the evolution of a football helmet from when a player's headwear was merely a wool cap to today, where the latest in modern technology is used to provide the best possible protection.

Although the players are more accustomed to wearing today's state-of-the-art equipment, they all jumped at the opportunity to try on some of the gear from the game's infancy stages.

While all of that was fun, the trip had the most impact on the players when they set foot in the Hall of Fame gallery, where the bust of every Pro Football Hall of Famer resides.

Defensive end Shareef Miller, having grown up an Eagles fan in Philadelphia, immediately looked for Reggie White's bust. If there was one thing Miller was going to get out of this trip, it was the ability to say he saw the Minister of Defense's sculpture in Canton.

"I was looking for Reggie White the whole time," Miller said. "He was one of my favorite players. I saw him and I was just so excited to see him, especially after what he did for the Eagles. It was really great to see him."

Steve Van Buren would have been a good running back for Miles Sanders to seek, but Van Buren's career was well before Sanders' time. Instead, Sanders looked for the Hall of Fame back that bears his name, Barry Sanders.

"That's the best running back that ever played the game, in my opinion," Miles Sanders said of Barry Sanders. "I think what separates him from all of the other backs was that he was so hard to tackle."

While Miller and Sanders were inspired by the players they idolized, wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, on the other hand, was motivated by a video that was shown to the players, which included a behind-the-scenes look at the most recent Super Bowl.

"I think the biggest thing was seeing that Super Bowl playback and just kind of saying, 'Yeah, I definitely want that to be me one day.' It gives you a lot of inspiration to go out and work hard," Arcega-Whiteside said.

After taking a deep dive into the game's past, the rookies now look to shape their future in an attempt to carve out their legacies.

That legacy could include any number of things, including Pro Bowls or merely just making the roster. But it doesn't hurt to set even loftier goals that may or may not include a return trip to the tiny town tucked away in Northeast Ohio.

"I've been here, but I don't want to come back unless I get that gold jacket," Sanders said.

The Eagles' rookie class took a trip to Canton, Ohio, to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, June 8.

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