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'Gridiron Glory' Exhibit Chronicles Pro Football from Past to Present

Posted Jan 10, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Of the eight teams remaining in this year’s NFL playoffs, only one will hoist the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston.

All eyes will turn the following day to Minnesota, set to host Super Bowl LII in February 2018.

Before that, however, fans in the area can see the championship trophy and a predecessor, which are on display at the Minnesota History Center’s “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame” exhibit.

The traveling exhibit, which ends Sunday, Jan. 15, includes more than 200 artifacts, photos and rare documents for up-close view.

The exhibit spans the history of professional football and includes the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette Trophy that was won by Homestead Library Athletic Club in 1900, the earliest known instance of a championship trophy being presented to a pro football team. Homestead A.C. went undefeated and untied in 21 games from 1900-01 but folded after losing $8,000 in its second season.

Just above that trophy is a display of “Pro Football’s Birth Certificate.” The Alleghany Athletic Association expense accounting sheet from Nov. 12, 1892, lists a cash bonus of $500 to W. (Pudge) Heffelfinger for playing.

The experiences of the sport’s trailblazers to today’s trendsetters are chronicled in the exhibit.

Items worn by Knute Rockne for the Massillon Tigers in 1919, as well as former Duluth Eskimos Doc Williams and Ernie Nevers intersect with locker displays of current Vikings Stefon Diggs and Everson Griffen.

The helmet Jim Marshall wore in his final game, the jersey worn by Fran Tarkenton when he completed his 291st touchdown pass, the football he threw on Oct. 31, 1976, when he set the NFL’s all-time yardage mark and the jersey from Alan Page’s final season in Purple share space in one display case.

Adrian Peterson’s single-game rushing record of 296 yards against the Chargers in 2007 is celebrated in part of a “Records are Made to be Broken” display.

The exhibit also features multiple interactive areas, including: Vikings Training Camp where guests can practice field goals and complete passes, the opportunity to step into an officials’ replay booth to make a call and the chance to wear helmets that have play calls from the sidelines.

Exhibits include the following:

• The Pioneers: A salute to the early days of the sport featuring players

• The Great Moments: Extraordinary acts of athletic ability presented by NFL Films

• The Great Players: Stars that made every fan take notice, including Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown, Joe Namath and many Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famers

• The Dynasties: Teams that dominated an era, including the Minnesota Vikings defensive line, the Purple People Eaters, in the late 1960s

• Pro Football’s Road to Equality: An inspirational story of the rise of black athletes

• The Science of Football: The marriage between sports and science with topics from nutrition to projectiles to the laws of motion

• Football as a Way of Life: Pro football’s ever-increasing role in American life and popular culture

• Records are Made to be Broken: Milestone events that have become seemingly unbeatable records

• Championship Theater: The excitement of winning through a high-energy NFL Films presentation of the road to the Super Bowl

• Let’s Hear it for the Home Team: Get to know the Minnesota Vikings through iconic artifacts, photos and film footage

Click here for ticket information. The exhibit closes Sunday, Jan. 15.