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Sights, sounds as 'NFL Honors' rolls out red carpet

MIAMI -- Rain couldn't stop the NFL's best and brightest (and most beautiful) from putting on a show fit for Miami.

As an intermittent drizzle fell from an overcast sky, all types of notable NFL figures strolled the canopy-covererd red carpet outside the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. NFL dignitaries and movie stars such as Jon Hamm were among the steady flow of those walking from one end to the other, stopping at various television and radio setups and social media booths along the way.

We can accept that this is now a standard event on the NFL calendar. We haven't hit 10 years of NFL Honors, yet, but there's no turning back. The event is just too good and brings together all parts of the NFL unlike any other on the eve of the league's most important game.

Lamar Jackson predictably won MVP, but that's not the purpose of this piece. No, this is about what I saw from the red carpet and backstage at NFL Honors.

Enjoy ...

»Plenty of famous faces walked the red carpet, but there was a noticeable difference for a select few.

One pairing that you could tell was coming from 75 feet away, even if you couldn't exactly see them, was Russell Wilson and wife Ciara. Followed by an NFL Network steadicam, the two strode down the red carpet with their trademark elegance. Wilson wore a suave purple jacket while Ciara was as dazzling as ever. I crammed myself up against the row of (fake?) bushes, trying to get as skinny as possible to avoid getting pancaked by the steadicam operator.

»Nearly every notable figure walking the red carpet had a handler holding a sign leading the way, but DeAndre Hopkins didn't need one. His sequined, disco ball-like jacket could be spotted from a mile away.

Teammate Deshaun Watson arrived dressed to the nines, too, but when I asked him who was more stylish -- him or Nuk -- the answer was easy.

"Oh, D-Hop," Watson said matter-of-factly. "I heard about his suit!"

»Another player who easily spotted Hopkins was Stephon Gilmore. He's seen him plenty on tape and, well, that jacket was hard to miss.

Gilmore was a slight favorite to win AP Defensive Player of the Year Award, and as he explained what it would mean to him, he never quite finished his thought because of that jacket.

"It would be big, big," Gilmore said. "It's a great accomplishment. It's the best player in the league ..."

Gilmore was in the middle of continuing that response when he crossed paths with Hopkins. The cornerback who earns a living trying to stop players like Hopkins exclaimed "what's up, fam!" and they embraced.

"I love playing against him," Hopkins said of Gilmore.

Less than an hour later, Gilmore won DPOY. Not a bad matchup.

»Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis sauntered down the red carpet and shot a selfie video for the NFL's social channels. After he returned the phone, a bystander complimented him on his performance.

"I'm a professional!" Lewis said confidently.

»Browns running back Nick Chubb looked sharp on the red carpet, but on a muggy afternoon in Miami, he was ready to find a cool breeze until he was able to get out of his suit.

Yes, that's right. At an event designed to flaunt one's style, the quiet, dependable workhorse preferred something other than what he had on, even if it looked good.

"It's great to come out here to see all these guys dressed up," Chubb said. "We always see them in uniforms so it's great to see them in nice suits. I'm not really a suit-and-tie guy. It's hot, I can barely move, I don't really like it. It's too serious for me."

Chubb has a stylist, of course, but only as many fancy suits as he does appearances at NFL Honors: two.

»The new Pro Football Hall of Fame class looks a bit larger than usual because it also includes a special centennial class as part of the NFL 100 celebration. A good amount of those members, including the five modern-era selections, gathered backstage during NFL Honors.

Plenty -- except for first-ballot pick Troy Polamalu -- talked about how long they had to wait to get the call. Isaac Bruce decided to give a little payback to Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker.

"I wanted Mr. Baker just to wait a little while," Bruce said. "I wanted him to knock two rounds of knocks, just to let him feel what I've been feeling the last couple times."

Those gathered roared with laughter.

»The newly selected and soon-to-be Gold Jackets always talk about *the knock. *Its source is Baker, who has told me in the past he's 6-foot-9 and "a few cupcakes shy" of 400 pounds with paws to match.

Steve Atwater was fooled last year when he thought the knock was actually just a knock from a hotel maid. This time around, he knew that wasn't the case.

"When Dave knocked on my door, it was pretty obvious it wasn't the maid this time. If so, it would have been a very masculine maid," Atwater said. "So I was extremely excited. ... When I heard the knock on the door, I knew it was time."

»Jarvis Landry was a finalist for Walter Payton Man of the Year thanks to his extensive charity work, which focuses mainly on cystic fibrosis but also includes team-related community initiatives and kindling friendships with children in need. He made another friend Saturday: actor and diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan Paul Rudd, who was able to introduce his excited son to Landry as well.

»When the final question of the centennial class' press conference came from far in the back of the backstage room, Donnie Shell couldn't quite make out what he'd said. No worries: former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was honed in, relaying the question to Shell before he answered. In case anyone was wondering if the newest contributor selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame still has his hearing, the 79-year-old passed such a test with flying colors Saturday.

»Maxx Crosby enjoyed quite a rookie season, which came with a bonus: He got to bring an important person with him on the red carpet.

"It's a blessing to be here," Crosby said. "I got to bring my mom and show her a great time, so that's all that matters to me."

Crosby went from a Mid-American Conference standout to one of the best rookies of his class. The Eastern Michigan product was sure to shoutout his old league.

"I want to put on for the conference," Crosby said. "I feel like we're disrespected so I feel like I can come here and represent for them."

He wasn't the only MAC standout in attendance. Recently retired tight end and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates was also in the house and looking both dapper and ready to take the field at a moment's notice. As a fellow Kent State product, I gave him a "go Flashes" much to his delight.

»Harold Carmichael had to wait so long, folks around football thought if he didn't get into the Hall with the centennial class, he might never make it in. As Carmichael sees it, the wait and the centennial year makes it that much sweeter.

"We're special, man," Carmichael said of his classmates after a long explanation filled with gratitude. "We're special, this group."

»Former Chicago Bear and current internet star Spice Adams was a hit on the red carpet. He offered the secret to his viral brand -- "be yourself" -- but his best sell job was brought on by the humid weather that called for a specific antiperspirant: Old Spice.

"I put on some Ultra Smooth, which is dermatologist tested, and automatically you become ultra smooth," Adams said. "I mean, I was already smooth to begin with, but to be ultra smooth, it just takes it a step further."

Adams also had a little bit of advice for his old team.

"Really, the tell-tale sign is guys just staying healthy and the team just getting hot at the right time," Adams said. "Like, who thought the Titans would go as far as they did? A lot of times it's just when you click. The Bears can do the same thing. They won eight games. If they'd have won three or four more games, everybody would've been talking about the Bears."

As for his next viral hit, stay tuned. Even though he's found plenty of internet success, he often can't predict which of his videos end up catching fire. But you can be sure they'll keep coming.

»As the red carpet wound down, it was only right one of the last figures to walk in was legendary running back Jim Brown. The Pro Football Hall of Famer slowly proceeded to SiriusXM's setup to do a radio interview. He followed quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who turned, realized who was in his presence, removed his headset and slowly placed it on Brown's head, almost as if he was crowning the all-time great. Game recognizes game, no matter the age difference.

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