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KU in Canton

Matt Santos, Kutztown University's director of university relations, is in Canton to chronicle the induction of Andre Reed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Santos has covered Golden Bear Football since coming to KU in 1992.

August 4, 2014  10:30 a.m.

Final Thoughts from Hall of Fame Weekend in Canton
Matt Santos, Director of University Relations

The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions in Canton the past few days will certainly always remain with those of us who were fortunate enough to attend in person.  I am sure Andre Reed's speech
late Saturday night will remain with all of the Golden Bear faithful who watched on TV as well.  Even though we are back on campus, the excitement is still with me.   Here are some closing thoughts:

Andre Reed on stage at the Hall of Fame Induction

-Andre Reed did a great job Saturday night representing Allentown, the Buffalo Bills and Kutztown University.  He presented his thoughts well, told some great stories, and put the Golden Bears in the limelight.  It was great to hear him give credit to his late KU coaches George Baldwin, Gino Calcagni, and Al Leonzi, as well as two of his quarterbacks --- Gary Kline and Hall of Famer Greg Gristick.  His words about Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who is in a fight for his life with cancer, were especially touching.  There is a high-level of interest in bringing Andre to campus during a home football game this season to honor him at his alma mater.  Stay tuned!  

-As a lifelong fan of the National Football League and NFL history, I have some excellent advice for my fellow fans: you must put induction weekend in Canton on your bucket list.  While I have been to countless NFL games in various stadiums, training camps, the draft, historical sites and the Hall of Fame itself, they pale in comparison to induction weekend in Canton.  I have never been to the Super Bowl, and to be honest, really don't have a huge desire to go.   To me, it is a corporate event that caters to the masses.  This past weekend in Canton was a tribute to the traditions of the game involving all current 32 teams, as well as leagues and teams of the past.  Although there are some crowds to battle and it is not the best time to tour the Hall of Fame (especially the busts), there are various levels of paid activities that can be enjoyed.  Parking is not bad, and for $35 you can get into the grandstand at the stadium for the induction ceremony.  There is plenty of activity outside of the stadium, which is adjacent to the Hall of Fame itself.  There are plenty of concessions and a massive outdoor souvenir tent.  While the induction ceremony is very moving, there is a chance you might bump into NFL royalty from around the league (see below).   With stops for food, the trip takes about 6.5 hours from Kutztown by car.

-I think what amazed me the most was how many faces and figures I saw up close and personal in Fawcett Stadium, many of them close enough to touch.  I was at field level with a media pass, but tickets for seats in that area run about $75.   Passing directly in front of me were Hall of Famers John Madden, Marv Levy and Lawrence Taylor; Matt Hasselbeck of the Colts (former Seahawks quarterback); Broncos head coach John Fox; Giants quarterback Eli Manning and his teammates; Buddy's son Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator of the Saints; Curt Menefee of the NFL Sunday on Fox; and Rich Eisen of NFL Network.  

-My most exciting encounter on Saturday night was in the stadium near the media area.  I recognized a 6-8 legend standing next to me.  He was being harassed for autographs by people who didn't know who he was.  So I walked over to him and said, "Harold Carmichael!"   He was so relieved to meet an Eagles fan who recognized him that he talked with me for a few minutes.   He was there for his former teammate Claude Humphrey's induction (I know it was long, but I loved Claude's speech).  I asked Harold if Jaws (Ron Jaworski) was around, but he said he didn't think so.  He is currently working in community relations for the Birds, and can be observed on the sidelines at the Linc.  He feels the team is going to be good this year.   My parting words were, "They ought to be inducting you into the Hall of Fame soon."   I truly believe that --- he was a dominating receiver on mostly average teams.   I hope we get to see the day soon.   Although I didn't get to meet him, it was great to see former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil in the audience --- maybe another future Hall of Famer?  There were a few returning hall of famers on stage to the "goose bump list" as well.  Among them: Gayle Sayers and Dan Marino.

-The KU contingent was seated about 35 yards out facing the left side of the stage.  Those watching the ceremonies on TV may have noticed the group of NFL punters that came out to support Ray Guy.  I received a text from KU's associate vice president John Green that "a group of ex-punters" were sitting directly behind him.  I worked my way to the seats for Guy's speech, and sure enough, there sat a bunch of average-sized guys with big smiles on their faces.  I recognized Sean Landeta, Reggie Roby, Bryan Barker, Dave Jennings and Jeff Feagles among them.  Former Buccaneer and Bronco John Lynch was seated nearby as well.  Honestly, there were countless players walking around that were being approached for autographs that I did not recognize out of uniform.

-I did make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday afternoon for about an hour.   The only picture I took (this was my third visit) was of the jersey the Eagles' Nick Foles wore when he threw seven TD passes against the Raiders last season.  The place was packed with Giants and Bills fans, clad in their blue jerseys, obviously on hand for Michael Strahan, Andre Reed, and the Hall of Fame Game between the two teams Sunday night.   As I turned around from taking the picture of the Foles jersey, Greg Bamberger, KU athletics director, and I were surrounded by four guys in Giants jerseys.  So in an awkward moment I said, "Hey Giants fans, check this out.  The jersey Nick Foles wore when he threw seven touchdown passes last season."   Of course I immediately heard, "The Giants won four Super Bowls, the Eagles have none," and "we are going to vote the Eagles out of the NFC East." That argument may work in New Jersey, but we were standing in the cradle of the NFL, surrounded by history.  My response was simple: "You guys seem to forget that the Eagles were world champions in the 1948, 1949 and 1960 seasons."  The oldest gentleman among them said, "You are right, those were the Steve Van Buren years!" (the late Van Buren is an Eagles Hall of Fame running back, who ran had the only score in a blizzard in the 1948 title game to lead the Birds to the win at Shibe Park).  The younger guys turned to him and said, "Uncle Frank, why do you gotta help him out?"  I was off the hook, and they learned a lesson in history.

-My sole souvenir --- a Canton Bulldogs baseball hat.  Hey, I have plenty of Eagles gear, and the Canton Bulldogs represent NFL history better than anything.  They were in the league during the inaugural 1920 season and played where the league was founded.  They also featured the legendary Jim Thorpe.   Incidentally, we have NFL history right here in our back yard.  Thorpe, the first NFL commissioner and greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century, is buried about an hour from Kutztown in the mountains of Jim Thorpe, Pa.  It is practically an outdoor museum.  The old Carlisle Indian School where Thorpe played football and became a 1912 Olympic champion (now the U.S. Army War College) is about 90 minutes away.  Both are worth the visit, and the recent book by Kate Buford, Jim Thorpe: Native American Son, is excellent.  Also, the home of the Pottsville Maroons, who played in the NFL from 1925-28 is just 35 miles away.  The team captured the 1925 NFL title, only to have it stripped for playing a game against the Notre Dame All-Stars in Philadelphia, then the territory of the Frankford Yellowjackets (the prelude to the Eagles).  Playing in another team's territory was not allowed at the time.  The book "Breaker Boys," by David Fleming about that 1925 season is well worth the read.  There is currently a marker at the field where the Maroons played in Minersville, and a restaurant in downtown Pottsville, called Maroons, which is a great tribute to the team.  The coal trophy they were awarded for 1925 is on display in Canton.  Can you imagine, the NFL in Pottsville?   I would definitely have season tickets!

In closing, it was a pleasure sharing this experience with Golden Bear fans and NFL buffs alike.   What a great weekend for Andre Reed and for Kutztown University.  Congratulations!   KU's 2014 football season is just about a month away.   I look forward to calling the road games once again this season on KUR and   Who knows --- maybe the next KU legend will be lacing up his cleats in the maroon and gold for the first time this year.   Enjoy the final weeks of summer and "Go Golden Bears!" 

August 2, 2014 12:45 p.m.

Personal Observations from Canton
Matt Santos, Director of University Relations

The NFL and NFL history have been among my top passions since living outside of Atlanta as a kid in the early 70s.  Covering the induction of KU's Andre Reed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has brought me to the cradle of pro football for my first induction ceremony.  While I have been to the Hall of Fame twice before, Hall of Fame Induction weekend is a different experience.  Here are some of my personal reflections:

  • Andre Reed at the Hall of Fame Press ConferenceThose who follow us on Twitter will notice photos from Friday's press conference.  Dave Johnson, KU's assistant director of university relations, and I were there with the press providing coverage.  Andre Reed and Michael Strahan were mobbed by cameras.  I looked to my right and saw one of the inductees sitting at a table by himself.  It was Claude Humphrey!  Now, Claude was one of my favorites as a kid.  He played for my sorry Falcons when we lived in Georgia, and didn't get the attention he deserved.  When we moved back to the Delaware Valley in 1977, Claude soon became a member of the Philadelphia Eagles --- my then and now favorite sports team.  He helped the Birds to the Super Bowl in 1980.  I couldn't resist going over to meet him.  I told him he was one of my childhood heroes.   We spoke briefly about some of the bad quarterbacks he played with in Atlanta and how I watched him in both markets.  He said "So you followed me!"  Yes, I did.  Literally.  Then James Lofton wanted to know about Kutztown before his interview with Claude, so I went back to work.  Claude's hands were enormous.  Definitely a highlight.

  • I had to sneak over to listen in on Ray Guy at the press conference.  His Road to Canton special on NFL Network was excellent.  As a kid, I was not a fan of the Raiders, but knew that Ray Guy was the best.  I remember him hitting the gondola at the Super Dome in a Pro Bowl.   I have been so aggravated in recent years that there were no punters in the Hall of Fame.  Let's face it --- it is a necessary position.  Ray Guy's induction is long overdue.

  • Jan Stenerud was at the press conference being interviewed about specialists in the Hall of Fame.  He was a legendary kicker with the Kansas City Chiefs who played forever.  I had to explain to some of the younger media who he was.  A legend, that's who!

  • I met the producer of Andre Reed's NFL Network Road to Canton special.  He loved the old Kutztown footage.  We both wondered if the alumni who were interviewing Andre in 1984 saw themselves on national TV Thursday.  Who would have thought?

  • KU has a nice representation in Canton including KU Athletic Hall of Famers and Council of Trustee members Dr. Charles Blocksidge and Jack Wabby, trustee member and chair of the PASSHE Board of Governors Guido Pichini, acting president Dr. Carlos Vargas, Tracey Thompson, executive director of the KU Foundation, and Greg Bamberger, KU athletics director.  More will be on hand for the induction tonight.

  • I can't help but think about who is missing from this weekend --- that is Andre's coaches George Baldwin and Al Leonzi, who both passed away in the last year and a half.  I worked closely with Al as his sports information director when he was KU's head football coach (1992-97).  He would be in his element.  I can hear him now.  He would be so proud.  I am sure they both have great seats for tonight.

  • There were many "goosebump" moments at the Gold Jacket Dinner last night at the Civic Center.  I was in the media section, and sitting about 20 yards from me was the oldest living hall of Famer, Charley Trippi, age 92.  Trippi played for the world champion Chicago Cardinals in 1947 and is from my late grandparents' hometown of Pittston, Pa.  He also played for my beloved Georgia Bulldogs.  He had an empty seat next to him at his table and was keeping to himself.  If only I was brave enough to talk my way past security, I would have probably driven him nuts. 

  • With so many hall of famers front and center, there were some that made me say "Wow!" when they walked out: Fred Biletnikoff, Jim Brown, Dave Casper (Ghost to the Post), Mike Ditka, Dan Fouts, Bob Griese (my late Mom's favorite), Sonny Jurgensen, Steve Largent, Howie Long, John Madden, Jan Stenerud, Lawrence Taylor, Charley Trippi, Paul Warfield, Roger Wehrli, and Jack Youngblood

Canton is quite an experience.  I am looking forward to tonight.

August 2, 2014 11:a.m.

Reed's Induction is Truly Amazing
Matt Santos, Director of University Relations

Andre reed wears the Hall of Fame Gold JacketThe magnitude of Kutztown University's Andre Reed being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame really didn't hit me until yesterday.

To put it in perspective seems futile, but let me try.  I have had the distinct privilege of working in and around college athletics since 1985. That includes 22 years with our beloved Golden Bears. I have also been fortunate enough to meet and work with many athletes who have achieved success at the highest level.  As a college sportscaster at Rowan University, I interviewed my favorite all-time player, Ron Jaworski.  As the sports information director at Delaware State, big-time college basketball was common.  I was in press conferences with John Thompson and Alonzo Mourning of Georgetown, and Nolan Richardson and the nationally ranked Arkansas Razorbacks of the early 90s.  Our football team was the only team to beat Jim Tressel's national champion Youngstown State team, and I witnessed, at the time, our team overcome the largest 4th quarter deficit in NCAA history (28 points).   As the sports information director at Kutztown, I covered John Mobley and Ryan Vogelsong.   Mobley was the best football player I ever worked with.  Being with him at the 1996 NFL draft was a surreal experience.  We know he went on to win two Super Bowls.  I sat behind the backstop at KU and watched Vogelsong pitch his way to the top ERA in Division II in 1997.  A truly humble guy, he is a great example of overcoming the odds.  I had to pinch myself when he dominated the post season for the San Francisco Giants 2012 en route to winning the World Series.

Prior to my arrival at KU, Doug Dennison paved the way for future Golden Bears by winning a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys.  Bruce Harper came out of KU to have a stellar career with the Jets, and Andre Reed was leading the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls.

The story could certainly end there, and Golden Bear fans would be proud.  After all, small college athletics aren't the primary source of pro athletes.  Consider that in the history of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference there have been many nationally ranked football programs.  Consider that in 98 seasons, Kutztown has had only two seasons (2010 & 2011) that we made the national playoffs.  Consider that there is only one athlete from the PSAC to ever earn Pro Football Hall of Fame status --- KU's Andre Reed.  Not a player from one of those perennial powers, but from the underdog Golden Bears of Kutztown.

Now consider that more than 25,000 men have played in the National Football League since its humble beginnings in Canton in 1920.  Only 287 of those men, including Kutztown's Andre Reed have made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  That is stunning!

It really hit me last night as more than 100 Hall of Famers were introduced for the Gold Jacket Dinner.  Consider these names:  Marcus Allen, Jim Brown, Cris Carter, Mike Ditka, Marshall Faulk, Steve Largent, Howie Long, Warren Moon, Warren Sapp, Gayle Sayers, Emmitt Smith, Lawrence Taylor.....the list goes on.  It is worth a visit to the Hall of Fame website to view the entire list.  From Jim Thorpe and Sammy Baugh to Dick Butkus and Joe Namath to Franco Harris and Roger Staubach to Joe Montana and Steve Young, the list is filled with legend after legend.  And now a part elite company is Kutztown University Golden Bear Andre Reed.

While I don't have the percentages of what it takes for a Division II athlete to go to the pros, play on a world championship team or make an all-star team, Kutztown has had it all.  But I think it's safe to say that the percentage of having a Pro Football Hall of Famer is even slimmer, and KU can now say it's include on that list.

From a personal perspective, while I certainly treasure and won't forget the aforementioned experiences, last night I was simply in awe.  

Congratulations Andre.  It is a proud day to be a Kutztown University Golden Bear.