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Pro Football’s “First Play” Celebrates Kids


Nolan with Jerry Csaki, who is director of youth and educational programs at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio

Every summer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, welcomes a new class of outstanding former players, coaches, and National Football League (NFL) executives. Tens of thousands of people from around the world come to Canton to witness the induction ceremony.

The enshrinement, which took place this year on August 4, is accompanied by a week of festivities, including “First Play.” On August 1, more than 3,000 young people joined together to pass a football along a three-mile route.

The “First Play” event began in downtown Canton, where the NFL was founded in 1920. One-by-one, children passed the football to the front steps of the Hall of Fame.

“The mission at the Pro Football Hall of Fame is to honor the heroes of the game, preserve its history, promote its values, and celebrate excellence everywhere,” said Jerry Csaki, the organization’s director of youth and educational programs. “First Play not only helps fulfill that mission, but also kicks off enshrinement week.”



Children help pass a football along a three-mile route from downtown Canton, while Hall of Famers look on.


Michael Papadopoulos and Zahner Linquist were among the children who passed the ball. “The First Play event is super cool,” Michael said.

“It’s neat being here at the Hall of Fame,” Zahner added. Both boys agreed that the best part of the event was getting to pass the football.

Four players who had been inducted into the Hall of Fame in past years walked along the route, encouraging the kids. At the end of the chain, the ball was presented to David Baker, president and executive director of the Hall of Fame.

“Our fans and our kids are what this is really all about,” Baker said. “If any of the children along the route have trouble, we have a Hall of Famer there to help them pick up [the ball] and get it going again.”

Top photo courtesy of the author; bottom photo courtesy of HOF Productions