Safety Adrian Wilson checks out the Hall of Fame display featuring his former teammate, Pat Tillman.
CANTON, Ohio – With thousands sitting in Fawcett Stadium one building over watching the induction ceremonies of the class of 2012, the buses of the Arizona Cardinals rolled up on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night for a tour – albeit brief – of their sport's history.
"It's breathtaking honestly, walking around and seeing all these legends," cornerback Patrick Peterson said. "It's an honor to even be here. It's a school of football right here."
The players streamed through over the next 45 minutes, absorbing what they could. A handful of guys, including wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, listened to a Hall of Fame employee tell the story about the Cardinals and the Pottsville Maroons and the disputed championship of 1925. Defensive backs Michael Adams and Rashad Johnson checked out the display honoring the African-American pioneers in football.
The offensive line, particularly Daryn Colledge, Lyle Sendlein and Adam Snyder, found a highlight monitor that included the playing days of their coach Russ Grimm as one of the Redskins' "Hogs," delighting in Grimm's 1980s look. Running back Ryan Williams made his way to the bust of enshrined running back Walter "Sweetness" Payton, so much a hero of Williams that Williams' Twitter handle is "'Lil Sweetness."
"That was the only person I wanted to see," Williams said. "I came right here (to his bust). I love all the other guys the running backs and what they did, like Tony Dorsett. But this was the one guy I wanted to see, and that was my main focus, coming in there and finding anything Walter Payton."
A couple of current Cards continue to be represented in the Hall. In a room that featured displays for all six of the 2012 inductees, there was also a display with a nod to three Cardinals – with former safety Pat Tillman, who was killed in action after joining the Army, the highlighted player.
Peterson's shoes from his record 99-yard overtime punt return against the Rams are also included, as well as the shoes and gloves that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wore when becoming the fastest player in NFL history to 400 career catches. Fitzgerald made his record catch Nov. 23, 2008, at the age of 25 years and 199 days, topping Randy Moss' mark (25, 305).
"It's my first time here and some place I've always wanted to visit to see the history and learn about the early stages of football," Fitzgerald said. "This is a great place to be."
Everyone assumes Fitzgerald will be here someday – even coach Ken Whisenhunt said the other day he wouldn't bet against it – but it's a subject Fitzgerald doesn't want to touch.
"I don't even talk about that stuff," Fitzgerald said. "I just try and get better daily. That's my focus."
Some players had been to the Hall of Fame before. The draft class this year came in June as part of the rookie symposium, and the rookie class of 2008 did the same, guys like Campbell and Early Doucet. The Cards came because of a game – facing the Saints in Sunday night's Hall of Fame game to kick off the NFL preseason – but acknowledging the sport's history was an important by-product.
"It started a long time before us," Peterson said. "We have to pay our respects to the guys who did it before."