CANTON, Ohio -- We're here in the McKinley Grand Hotel in downtown Canton, where this year's class of enshrinees -- Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf -- are about to make an off-the-radar group appearance.
The meaning behind this gathering? Autographs.
NFL Auction manager Pete Quaglierini told me he ordered nearly 500 helmets for the event. Pete's team paid special attention to detail, drumming up replicas of the old-school helmets worn by Hall of Famers during their day (like this Gale Sayers gem to the right). Nobody's getting rich off this, with proceeds going directly to less fortunate members of the Hall. I asked Quaglierini if the yesterday's stars are cooperative when it comes to inking memorabilia.
"They are great," he said. "I mean, they will sit there and sign as many as you want them to sign. They sit down and they tell stories. We have guys sitting for an hour, telling stories about when they played and how they got started in football."
Last year, Earl Campbell told the room about a moment in his childhood, when his mother pulled him aside and promised him he "would be something special" in life. That was true of Campbell and the rest of the men who will soon flood these hallways to help their own.