Atlanta is next stop for new Hall of Famers

New members of the College Football Hall of Fame will be in Atlanta this week for their ceremonial entry to the sport’s shrine.

The Hall of Fame’s 2015 class consists of 17 members, including former Texas running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams, former Oklahoma linebacker Brian Bosworth and former Falcons first-round draft pick Lincoln Kennedy.

Most of the class will be at the downtown Atlanta attraction on Wednesday morning to see their names unveiled in an invitation-only event in the rotunda and then to participate in a public ceremony on the indoor field around noon, according to Kimberly Beaudin, the Hall of Fame’s vice president of marketing and communications.

A new exhibit will display memorabilia from the new Hall of Famers’ careers.

The mementos on display at the Hall of Fame will range from game-worn helmets, jerseys and shoulder pads to a Pac-10 championship ring won by Kennedy to the sweater vest worn by Jim Tressel when he coached Ohio State to victory in the national-championship game for the 2002 season.

Hall of Fame curator Kent Stephens said some of the mementos already were in the hall’s possession and others were collected recently from the newly inducted members or their families.

“We made calls to some people who dug through their attics or what-have-you,” Stephens said.

The new Hall of Famers also will be honored on the field of the Georgia Dome between the third and fourth quarters of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Thursday. The 11th annual “National Hall of Fame Salute” was moved this year from the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans to the Peach Bowl for the first time.

On the top floor of the Hall of Fame building Wednesday morning, the 2015 induction class’ “blade” — a lighted glass panel with the names of each year’s inductees engraved on it — will be unveiled. Each new member will receive a replica.

The festivities basically replace what the Hall of Fame used to call its “enshrinement” ceremony, which was held in Atlanta the past two years.

Under the old set-up, new Hall of Famers were “inducted” at the National Football Foundation awards dinner in New York each December, then “enshrined” at the Hall of Fame the following summer. It was a protracted and confusing process, especially since the following year’s Hall of Fame class already had been announced by the time of the previous group’s enshrinement ceremony.

Under the new arrangement, the Hall of Famers continue to be inducted at the NFF’s early-December awards dinner at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel, then come to Atlanta a few weeks later to see their careers celebrated in the Hall of Fame building for the first time and to be saluted at the Peach Bowl.

National Football Foundation President Steve Hatchell has said this arrangement “fits perfectly with our new schedule, creating a momentous conclusion for each inductee before we announce the next class on the Friday before the College Football Playoff championship game.”

With the addition of the 2015 class, 963 players and 209 coaches are in the College Football Hall of Fame out of roughly 5.1 million who have played or coached the game during the past 146 years.

“To be recognized in that very small percentage of the number of guys that played college football … I never thought I was that good,” Kennedy, who played offensive tackle at the University of Washington and was the Falcons’ first-round draft pick in 1993, said at an NFF news conference this month. “But to be up here on such a … wonderful stage is truly a blessing.”

The moderator noted that Kennedy was responsible for allowing only two sacks in his college career and asked if he remembered each of them.

“I do,” he replied. “Thank you for reminding me.”

For the new Hall of Famers, this week may bring a lot of memories.

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