Joe Namath knows something about making history.
So when the Pro Football Hall of Fame asked him to cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the renovated shrine in Canton, Ohio, Namath guaranteed he'd be there.
Tagging along in early August will be, oh, 100 or so members of the hall, the largest gathering of Hall of Famers in any sport. This is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the museum, and Namath, for one, can't wait.
"People will come from all over the country to have a great few days," says the hero of the 1969 Super Bowl upset by the Jets over the Colts, a game that has a special place in football history — and in the hall. "The golden anniversary, with the addition of having renovated the Hall of Fame physically and having added some wonderful things for fans to take part in actively, and the memorabilia.
"It will be the getting together of so many guys I have not been around for so long. This is something that's never been done before, that many people in one sport together that are in the Hall of Fame."
Indeed, Hall of Fame officials are expecting 130 or more members to attend for the inductions of Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Larry Allen, Warren Sapp, Dave Robinson, Curley Culp and Bill Parcells.
The weekend festivities Aug. 2-4 will cap a two-year, $27 million expansion and restoration program.
"Nowhere else will fans be able to interact with this many Hall of Famers in one place," said Steve Perry, president of the Hall of Fame.
Among those committed to joining Namath are such career leaders as receiver Jerry Rice, running back Emmitt Smith, defensive end/sackmaster Bruce Smith, and coach Don Shula (victories).
Longtime Hall of Famers such as Dick Butkus, Frank Gifford, Joe Greene and Gale Sayers will be joined by more recent inductees Art Monk, Darrell Green and Shannon Sharpe. Plus dozens of others.
Namath believes the Jets' stunning 16-7 Super Bowl win was so uplifting to people that 44 years later, it still resonates. And it probably always will.
"I have given that a lot of thought over the years," says Namath, who was inducted in 1985. "A lot of us are underdogs in our lives, there are a whole lot of underdogs on a daily basis in all walks of life, not just in sports or in football. I think our victory was inspiring because of the way it showed an underdog can come through. I think that was a big deal at the time and I think it still is a big deal, how it influenced a whole lot of people all around the country.
"I like to think so many people look at that game and say, 'Those guys did it, I can overcome this, I can come through on this.' Whether it's work or family issues or a setback healthwise, they say 'I am going to do it.' "
Namath is one of only four Hall members to enter as a Jet; Don Maynard, Weeb Ewbank and Curtis Martin are the others. Namath was the first player to go in from the franchise.
Ogden shares such a distinction for the Baltimore Ravens. That, and the huge celebration planned for this year, make his induction particularly special, he says.
"When you are the first of anything, you want to try to be one of the standard bearers for any organization," Ogden says. "The fact I was able to be (general manager) Ozzie Newsome's first pick for the Baltimore Ravens, and the fact I was able to succeed on the football field at a high level and win a Super Bowl and help that organization become a powerhouse in the NFL, I really feel like my contributions have really been substantial. I am proud of that."
Pride in their achievements bonds the Hall of Famers as much as their dedication to the game. That combination brings them back year after year.
Namath has returned to tour the hall several times on family junkets, and, of course, for the inductions. He says he gets a similar thrill on every visit, but it's the reactions by his relatives that really hit home.
"I went with my nephew and his son and was lucky enough, being in the Hall of Fame, to be afforded the chance to move around with my family and introduce them to a few folks," he recalls. "Len Dawson, Ted Hendricks, Lem Barney, Anthony Munoz — so many great players. And the look on their faces when they met and spoke with these great players, it was wonderful.
"I can't wait to see people experience that again this year."