There aren’t many football players more synonymous with the Pro Football Hall of Fame than Barry Sanders and Jim Brown. So it made sense for the two legendary running backs to be on hand as the Hall of Fame debuted Gridiron Glory, a traveling exhibit that will feature more than 200 mementos from Canton, Ohio, including the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Gridiron Glory is in New Orleans for Super Bowl week and will visit St. Louis and New York throughout the next year.
Sanders and Brown took a few minutes away from the exhibit to speak to ESPN Playbook about all things Hall of Fame.
Who’s the one person not in the Hall of Fame who should be?
Sanders: I’d have to think about that. It’s a difficult process. I played against Cris Carter, and without having put a lot of thought into it, I think he’s someone who would probably get my vote, if I had to choose one. There are a lot of great players who have played who are on the borderline that will probably get in eventually. But it’s not an easy process, and it’s not always cut and dry.
Brown: I guess I’d talk about Art Modell, because I was involved with him as a human being and he won a championship with us, and won one with the Ravens, and so I thought that it would be natural for him to get into the Hall of Fame with those credentials. But some guy in Cleveland said he wasn’t worthy, and that was that.
You’re both running backs. With the NFL shifting to more of a passing league, do you worry we’ll see a shortage of running backs in the Hall in the future?
Sanders: That certainly could play a part. You’ll still see your top running backs gain the same amount of yardage or about the same amount of yardage. I think the lead running backs are still going to distinguish themselves.
Brown: It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care who gets in or who doesn’t, because I have my own judgment. Sometimes I agree with the Hall of Fame committee, but I look at greatness in my own way. And remember, a lot of things like the Hall of Fame -- or flowers or having a great meal -- are wonderful things, but if you’re 76 years old, you’re not running around thinking of those types of things. I cared about those things in my 20s, but now I’m thinking about my children and being as good of a human being as I can and getting out of here. It’s a different state of mind.
Out of all the young QBs in the league this year, who do you think is most likely to reach the Hall of Fame?
Sanders: I don’t know. I think it was certainly a great year for young QBs. It probably just says a lot about their preparation in high school and college, and the kind of players they are. I’d have to see probably what they do over the next couple of years before I pass a judgment.
Brown: I would say the kid from San Francisco [Colin Kaepernick].
Same question, but with running backs.
Sanders: You look at Adrian Peterson, and you can probably even look at Ray Rice, and there are a couple others that might have a chance. But I’d have to definitely study it and take a closer look at it to give you a good answer.
Brown: Adrian Peterson.
What’s your favorite exhibition at the Hall of Fame?
Sanders: I like some of the old uniforms. I don’t know if I’m saying the names right, I like teams like the Canton Bulldogs and Pottsville Maroons. These names are just outrageous, and some of the stories about the early days, them traveling from town to town doing exhibition games and all this kind of stuff, and all the names from that age, it was such a different game and to see kind of what the game has become. I guess that’s what really stands out. I would say if there’s one thing I’d look at, a lot of people probably pay attention to the old leather helmets. I’ve seen some of those start to resurface at autograph shows as collectors' items and seen some at the museum, also. That’s something that comes to mind.
Brown: I have very few "favorite" things I like to enjoy. There are so many things that impress me, I’d be remiss if I said just one thing. I think they’ve done a wonderful job. I’m happy to be a member of the Hall of Fame, and I’m glad to see they’re bringing it out to the people.
Where does being named to the Hall of Fame rank on the best moments of your life?
Sanders: It’s at the top. Because of the road I traveled, all of the great players in the Hall of Fame that I was and am a fan of. To be able to follow in those footsteps of guys like Gale Sayers, or a Bart Starr, the list goes on and on. To be able to have that official stamp put on your career as a Hall of Famer, that’s remarkable.
Brown: For my life, it’s not included. The important things in my life are all spiritual, and that’s a category that carries me wherever I am, which means when I die, it still carries. That’s what I represent. Some people are in the Hall of Fame because they deserve it, and some aren’t there because they weren’t accepted in one particular year. Other people making decisions on an individual, it’s good in setting goals and everything, but sometimes things are just spiritual and nobody shares that with you. It’s just you and God. We’re all going to die, so what are your preparations to face what it is you have to face? So counting my accomplishments, as far as a football player or a lacrosse player, it would get pretty shallow. I don’t mean to put it down at all, but just to put it in perspective.