One of the first things you'll see if you visit the Gridiron Glory exhibit at the Washington State History Museum is an arm. More specifically, it's a mold of Cortez Kennedy's right arm, a reminder of how the Seahawks' Hall of Fame defensive tackle "used his strength and large stature to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines."
Gridiron Glory, a traveling Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibit, will be in Tacoma, starting this weekend and staying at the State History Museum until Sept. 10, would have been a must-see for Seahawks and football fans under any circumstances, but given the unfortunate news that Kennedy passed away this week, it is now, as former Seahawks receiver Paul Johns put it Tuesday, a "bitter-sweet" trip down memory lane.
"There's no such thing as a coincidence," Johns said while introducing the exhibit to the media Tuesday, shortly after learning of Kennedy's death. Johns, who now serves as the Seahawks' director of youth football and alumni programs, was a bit emotional Tuesday, as were so many others who knew Kennedy, but as was the case for so many others, talking about Kennedy also brought a lot of joy.
Seahawks fans who see Gridiron Glory—the official opening is Saturday, though tickets can be purchased for a VIP opening on Thursday night—will also see a pair of Kennedy's football shoes along with other Seahawks-related exhibits, including a section called hometown heroes that features everything from a Walter Jones jersey to a ball Russell Wilson used to make history to the Air Monarchs Pete Carroll wore during the Seahawks' Super Bowl XLVIII victory.
And while there are plenty of Seahawks-related items to view, including the Lombardi Trophy won by the 2013 team, there is plenty to see for fans of any football team, or even just fans of history.
There's the $500 agreement between Pudge Heffelfinger and the Allegheny Athletic Association that in 1892 made him the first player paid for his services, a document otherwise known as the birth certificate of professional football. There's the play sheet from the Baltimore Colts' 1958 championship game victory over the New York Giants, a game known as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." And there's a panel from the elevator in Three Rivers Stadium where Steelers owner Art Rooney missed one of the most famous plays in his team's history, the Immaculate Reception that allowed Pittsburgh to beat Oakland in the 1972 playoffs. Thinking his team was about to see its season come to an end, Rooney was already on the way to the locker room to console his players. Broncos fans can see the jersey John Elway wore during "The Drive," while Patriots fans can see the now-famous draft card New England turned in to select Tom Brady in the sixth round.
Fans can also try on NFL shoulder pads or put on helmets with communication equipment inside, giving them a taste of what quarterbacks hear during games. There's also a replica replay booth where you can see what it's like to be a referee reviewing a challenged call.
The Washington State History Museum began working to get Gridiron Glory to Seattle five years ago, and now the exhibit is making its first stop in the Northwest. With the exhibit opening this week, it's a great chance for football fans and Seahawks fans to take a unique look NFL history, and yes, to remember Kennedy. As Johns put it, "There's no such thing as a coincidence."
Images from the Gridiron Glory exhibit in Tacoma, WA, which gives football fans in the Pacific Northwest a taste of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. The tour is open to the public from May 27-Sept. 10 at the Washington State Historical Museum.