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5 things I learned at the College Football Hall of Fame

By Charlotte Wilder
FOX Sports Columnist 

ATLANTA — The Dos Equis Ultimate College Football Road Trip is off and running, and our first stop is Georgia-Oregon.

It’s always fascinating when my travels take me to a neutral site game because even though it doesn’t have the buzz of a college campus, the fans still bring plenty of passion. I’ve already seen more Oregon jerseys in Atlanta than I can count, which is sort of a jarring visual. But hey, Ducks fly together, amiright? 

The first day on the ground was jam-packed. First, I visited Atlanta native Matthew Foster, the genius behind the lemon pepper wet pizza that took Atlanta and the internet by storm. Foster is the founder of Phew’s Pies and as big a Georgia football fan as you’ll find. He told me what it was like to finally win a championship after years of heartbreak as we tossed pizza dough in the air.

If you’re in the Atlanta area, be sure to find Foster at one of his pop-ups. In addition to the lemon pepper, which is tangy, salty and melt-in-your-mouth, he makes an oxtail-ricotta pizza with scotch bonnets that marries the rich meat with the perfect amount of heat. Can’t say enough good things. 

We then headed over to the College Football Hall of Fame, where I was joined by Marcus Allen. Allen had a storied career. A star running back at USC and then in the NFL — with a 16-year career between the Raiders and Chiefs — he’s the only football player to ever win the Heisman Trophy, an NCAA national championship, the Super Bowl, an NFL regular-season MVP and a Super Bowl MVP. He’s got too many records to count, but he reminded me of some of them in the feature we shot together, which will be out soon. 

In the meantime, here are five takeaways from an afternoon at the CFB HOF. 

1. It’s very cool to go to the Hall of Fame with someone who’s in it

Walking through the halls with Allen gave the Hall of Fame a very different dimension from just visiting as a fan. Usually, the exhibits feel like a museum: impressive, but far away and distant. Going with a decorated player who knows what it’s like to hold the Heisman, who remembers winning championships, and whose teammates are also enshrined, was very moving.

Where fans might see trophies and accolades, Allen saw the thousands of hours of hard work it took to get there. He looked at the Heisman and saw his parents; when he won, he said, it was one of the few times he heard his father cry. We swiped through the digital touch screens that showed old pictures of him, and he remembered the days the photos were taken. He scrolled through the other USC players and remembered how they’d given him rides home, or how they’d been role models for him. Where fans see football great Ronnie Lott, Allen saw his former roommate.

It was a great reminder of the human experience behind the titles and awards. 

2. The HOF is shaped like a football 

Very cool!

3. Being a mascot is hard

I was lucky enough to have the privilege of becoming Fumbles, the Hall of Fame’s mascot, for about 15 minutes. Did I have a panic attack when they first strapped me into the costume? Sure. Did I think I was going to pass out from the heat and claustrophobia the headpiece generated? Absolutely! Did someone have to quickly extract me out of the suit? 1000 percent! 

But you know what? Because I’m a champion, I put the head back on, took several deep breaths, and worked through my fear to do some combine drills as a mascot.

And let me tell you, even without the physio- and psychological existential crisis I had to fend off, it is difficult. I couldn’t really see much, the thing weighed a bajillion pounds and I had to duck to get through any doorway. I sweated as much as I do in a hot yoga class, and I think I got just as intense a workout.

It was also, however, absolutely delightful. There’s something really great about not being allowed to say anything and being anonymous inside a costume. My job is usually to talk constantly and be as recognizable as possible, and let me tell you, it’s a real relief every once in a while to be told I’m not even permitted to talk. 

I also felt very accomplished when I managed to kick a field goal, throw a football and run as a fuzzy creature the HOF calls a “fanimal.”

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the rumors are true — not all heroes wear capes. 

4. The HOF is far more technologically advanced than I am  

You know those movies from the ‘90s or early 2000s where the walls are all glass touchscreens and the building knows you’re in it before you’re even there? Like “Minority Report” or whatever? That’s what the Hall of Fame is like.

When you enter, you’re given a badge, and you can program that badge to say your name as well as the college with which you’d like to be affiliated. You go through the exhibits scanning your card and the HOF then emails you about all the things you did. Everything lights up, everything is a touch screen and I couldn’t figure out how to work most of it. But it was very impressive.

5. Colby College is in the HOF  

Normally, when someone in the college football world asks me where I went to college, I tell them it’s a small liberal arts school they probably haven’t heard of and we move on. But this time, the person working at the HOF insisted I elaborate and said that if the college has a four-year football program, its helmet is on the wall in the main lobby. I was like, OK, buddy.

Then I searched for Colby College, and there it was, a helmet with a mule on it. (Yes, that is the actual mascot. A mule.) 

The blue and white helmet lit up and glowed. I was so proud. I was even prouder when the stats on the screen announced that my alma mater has zero players and coaches in the HOF. Jokes on them, because we might not officially be inducted, but I was not only in the building today, I was inside the mascot inside the building.

So now, at least we can say that one Colby College alum is (was) in the Hall of Fame. A win for football-loving New Englanders everywhere. 

Charlotte Wilder is a general columnist and cohost of “The People’s Sports Podcast” for FOX Sports. She’s honored to represent the constantly neglected Boston area in sports media, loves talking to sports fans about their feelings and is happiest eating a hotdog in a ballpark or nachos in a stadium. Follow her on Twitter @TheWilderThings.


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