The Pro Football Hall of Fame festivities in Canton, Ohio have something for everyone. But for Cleveland Browns fans, the Gold Jacket dinner and presentation on Friday night was the big one. NFL Network's Rich Eisen hosted the event, and despite several jabs at Ohio State (Eisen is a staunch Michigan fan), Eisen provided an entertaining night for the crowd of over four thousand.
When Browns legendary left tackle Joe Thomas stepped onto the platform, the crowd jump to their feet. You could hear barking all around the room, and chants of "Here we go Brownies" filled the air. Thomas made his way through the Golden Gauntlet of Hall of Famers toward the center stage.
Unlike in years past, the 2023 Hall of Fame inductees selected another member of the Hall of Fame to present them with their gold jacket. Waiting for Thomas on the main stage was none other than Pittsburgh Steelers great running back Jerome "The Bus" Bettis.
It was a beautiful moment when you realize the depth that sports has in the human soul. Not to sound poetic, but we all understand how deep the hate can be between Browns and Steelers. And yet, in that moment of a lifetime, a Brown chose a Steeler to share that moment.
Thomas and Bettis embraced, and then Bettis put the gold jacket on Thomas as the latter became the first Browns player to enter the Hall of Fame since the team came back in 1999. Thomas's accolades include 10 Pro Bowl selections, six First-Team All-Pro honors, and two Second-Team All-Pro honors. He was also named to the 2010 All-Decade team.
But the number Thomas is most proud of is his 10,363 consecutive snaps played, which is widely believed to be the most in NFL history. When asked about the number that is permanently displayed in Cleveland Browns Stadium, Thomas said what meant the most to him during his career was being available to play next to his teammates.
Overall, it was a magical night for Browns fans as Thomas will now be forever enshrined in Canton, Ohio.