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A reproduction Lombardi Trophy was made specifically for the Pro Football Hall of Fame traveling exhibition. (Photo courtesy Virginia Historical Society/The Pro Football Hall of Fame)
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"Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame" runs May 28 through Sept. 4 at the Virginia Historical Society. (Photo by Nicole Cohen)
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Past memorabilia is on display from the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. (Photo by Nicole Cohen)
Opening tomorrow, the Virginia Historical Society exhibition “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” delves into the roots of the American sport from the late 19th century to today. More than 200 artifacts are on display, including items such as “Mean Joe” Greene’s helmet, the 1929 Green Bay Packers' national championship football and the very first professional football contract signed in 1892 by William “Pudge” Heffelfinger to play one game for $500 plus expenses.
“It is the biggest exhibit we’ve ever hosted here in terms of size and number of artifacts. It is pretty overwhelming,” says Paul Levengood, VHS president and CEO.
Organized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, the exhibition is not only a great chance to see historic items of the NFL’s past, it also tells its origin story through items such as a 1920s wool jersey from the Duluth Eskimos, a 1910 Akron Indians football and an early 1900s noseguard reminiscent of something out of a science fiction movie.
There’s a section dedicated to the role of African-Americans and their integration into the sport. Players such as Paul Robeson (well known for his singing and acting career) and Frederick Douglass “Fritz” Pollard (the first African-American coach in the national league) are highlighted.
Curious about what it’s like to wear those shoulder pads? There are several interactive exhibits that let you try out equipment for yourself and test your knowledge of the sport.
Heading to the Washington Redskins Training Camp this summer? There’s a 500-square-foot “Hometown Tribute” area devoted to the team. See Kirk Cousins’ jersey, a cheerleader’s outfit and memorabilia from their three Super Bowl championships.
“I think when people come into this exhibit and maybe they just know about some of the current teams and things like that, once they leave, they’ll have more respect for the NFL and where it started from in 1892 with Heffelfinger’s first contract up till now and how it became one of the biggest spectator sports for America,” says Greg Hansard, the VHS’ manager of web and digital resources.
“Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame” runs May 28 to Sept. 4. $20. 358-4901 or vahistorical.org.