Pro football season is just around the corner and the NFL Network ratcheted up the anticipation with a special event last Thursday honoring its three newest members of the team – newly inducted Hall of Famers LaDainian Tomlinson, Terrell Davis and Kurt Warner.
The new crew means NFL Network, which is going into its 15th season, nabbed three of the seven of this year’s newest HOF members, who were installed in ceremonies in Canton, Ohio earlier this month.
Huddling at Santa Monica’s Fairmont Hotel, they joined anchor Rich Eisen and fellow analysts and Hall of Famers Michael Irvin and Marshall Faulk for a discussion about the upcoming season on the network, which also unveiled its MediaCruiser mobile set for broadcasting games in a parking lot outside the hotel.
The men were all brought out on stage by new NFL Network and NFL digital media president Mary Ann Turcke, who recently relocated from Toronto to Culver City, Calif., where the network is based.
“I have the privilege of coming to the most prolific sports league in the world with 14 times the audience of the NBA, 33 times that of MLB and 36 times NHL,” she said.
Eisen, who joined the network from ESPN as its first on-air talent when it was launched 14 years ago, led a discussion with the analysts, who make up five of the six Hall of Famers on staff. (Deion Sanders was not present at the event, which was attended by more than 100 people.)
The new guys were still filled with excitement and awe at their induction into the Hall of Fame, although they said they’ve come back down to reality with their kids back in school and resultant fatherly duties, including coaching.
The analysts talked about some of their most exciting moments in Canton, and they all seem to have a favorite – meeting and speaking with the legendary Jim Brown.
“It all goes back to Jim Brown, the best running back in the game, and all the respect for each other and understanding the magnitude of Jim telling you stories from back in the day,” said Faulk. “I call these guys the pillars – they built the game and made it what it is today.”
“The level of respect shown in the room was incredible,” said Davis.
“Brown said we were all equal,” former San Diego Chargers running back Tomlinson noted, and said he appreciated the sentiment and respect.
“It’s the hardest team to get on – but you’re on it for life,” said Faulk of achieving Hall of Fame status.
The men also talked about the HOF luncheon preceding the induction ceremony, which is off-limits to media and where beefs between players are brought up and hopefully resolved. “It’s sometimes not nice. Things are said that should not be repeated, but it all comes out,” Faulk said.
As for the ceremony itself, Irvin said everyone takes bets on who’s going to cry first. “This is the Who’s Who of football and you’re going to feel it,” Davis said, after Tomlinson admitted he couldn’t help but breaking down. He had given a powerful speech that called for “Team America” to be a place of inclusion and opportunity.
“Your passion for the game came from watching these guys,” Warner said of the exclusive club of Gold Jackets. “That’s when you realize it’s real.”
The analysts bantered about predictions for this season even while admitting it was a touch too early to go all in on favorites.
NFL Network preseason coverage is ongoing through the season opener Thursday, Sept. 7 in Foxborough, Mass., when the Kansas City Chiefs face the reigning champion New England Patriots and five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady.