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Pro Football Hall of Fame’s David Baker Treasures Lasting Enshrinement

It’s football’s iconic shrine! The Pro Football Hall of Fame – where ALL players hope to be – but very few elected. Bronzed and enshrined, the game’s greats wait for their call – when David Baker, the Hall’s CEO and President – comes knocking! 

Q. “David, why is this building and those enshrined in it revered?” 

David Baker: “The Pro Football Hall of Fame is here is because this is where the game started. And ten teams came team together here in Canton and created this incredible thing! You’re in one of the greatest rooms on the face of the earth! We call it the most inspiring place on earth! This is the legacy of the greatest that ever played the game and there’s only 326 bronze-busts here. That is elite company and I think people when they come into this - they feel the excellence!”

Q. “If this is the castle, you are the courier! When you look in the eye of a recipient who has finally reached the ultimate of their NFL ambition, what do you see?”

David Baker: “You know, they’re not thinking of their records, or their money, or their rings! They’re thinking about their mom! Who drove them to practice when they were ten years-old? Or their dad who wouldn’t let them quit. Or that coach, who put their arm around them and made them think they could be more. Or, that teammate that sacrificed for them to help get them here! And I think that guys feel at the moment – a legacy – a affirmation, a redemption that somebody said, ‘well done, good and faithful servant!’”

Q. “That’s your signature – affirming them! What is the impact?”

David Baker: Yeah, I think this is very important, Tom, because this isn’t about the worship of football heroes. Every one of these guys did not fall out of bed - great! They earned it! To be able to be in this group is a huge affirmation! ‘Cuz all these guys had times they weren’t sure. The commitment, the integrity, the courage, the respect, the love! Those values drag a lot of other people to greatness! It might make us better fathers, or better mothers, better companies, make us a better country! It’s more than just football, Tom!”

Q. “And David, why the connection to the fan?”

David Baker: “People will stand in line just to be with these bronze busts. And football is a game that has captured America’s passion! It’s the only sport, where every player needs every teammate on every play – just to survive! And that’s kind of a great metaphor for life (laugh).  We need each other and we need each other every day! If you’re playing at Lambeau Field you’re playing on frozen tundra stuck in your facemask. And you have to fight – to get through it! Whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Roger Staubach throw a “Hail Mary” - they’ve seen that it’s never over until the end. There’s always hope!”

Q. “What do these high achievers all have in common?”

David Baker: “I think that common of believing in something! Believing that they could! Believing in each other! Introduce Jim Brown, and all of the other Hall of Famers stand up. The perseverance and the never giving up but also what he did for social reform! He translated that to life! But I’ll tell ya, at our enshrinement, when we go back in the transcripts, the word – love – is used 140, 150 times! They love the game! They loved each other! And they wouldn’t let anything stop them! 

Q. “What kind of a conversation, if they could have one, would go on here?”

David Baker: “You know Tom, this is John Madden.  I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody who loved the game more than   him. And in his enshrinement speech, he said, ‘when the last fan left during the day and the janitor turned out the lights – that he was absolutely convinced that these guys talked to each other.’ I will say their legacies talk to each other. Their legacies speak to me! I know in particular – Derrick Brooks was concerned where he was going to be, ‘cuz he’s going to be right across from Warren Sapp and he thought he’d never get any sleep, never get any peace (laughter)!”

Q. “David, it’s fitting to me that it takes a man, bigger than other big men, to usher them into something larger than life. Do you ever wonder why me?”

David Baker: “My mom and dad couldn’t read or write. If it wasn’t for a whole lot of coaches and this game – I don’t think I would have the beliefs. I wouldn’t have been able to persevere with the mistakes I’ve made in life. I wouldn’t hold these principles so dear!  The values I’ve learned in athletics are very similar in a lot of respects to what I’ve learned by following Jesus Christ and what scripture talks about.”   

Q. “What would the bust – of Jesus Christ read?”

David Baker: “Yah (sigh). I think it would just either just say ‘love’ – or it would say ‘come to me’. Now, He had power and He had force and He had truth, but He would understand their hurt. But somehow it was so powerfully done in love that it was different. He wanted to heal their wound.”       

David Baker: “This is the greatest job in the world! I’ll tell ya. I get to give out the gold jacket. The get to give the Hall of Fame Ring of Excellence in their stadium in front of their fans! But I also get to knock on their door!”

Q. “It has all the elements of eternity, doesn’t it?

David Baker: “Yah it does, Tom. When I knock on the door and I look into their eyes – I think I’ve got a glimpse of their soul. They’re thinking about their journey. Even a bronze bust only lasts for 40-thousand years! Our life in Jesus Christ is – that is forever! Revelation three, twenty says, ‘Behold I stand at the door and I knock. And any man who answers the door I will come in’ and they’ll be a union between Jesus Christ and me. All you have to do is humble yourself and answer the door. And He will say, ‘well done, good and faithful servant’. And eternity is a lot longer than 40-thousand years!”

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