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Bills linebacker Keith Rivers: A player’s perspective on the NFL Hall of Fame Game

Keith Rivers discusses what it means to play in the NFL Hall of Fame game.

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Tomorrow night, four members of the NFL fraternity will be inducted into an even more exclusive one. . .the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. As a current player for the Bills, I get to play in the game that follows the induction ceremony. Having watched it for years, and having participated in the game against the Cowboys in 2010, I am familiar with the entire process.

In my previous post, I mentioned players’ love/hate relationship with training camp. When playing in the Hall of Fame Game, training camp starts early. That would probably go in the hate category. . . . However, after you get past summer break being cut short, you notice the myriad good things that come from playing in this game.

When you start camp early, you get to your first game sooner. It can be tiresome beating up on each other in training camp. But the real bonus to this game is getting to visit football’s Mecca, a place where all the guys you’ve ever imitated live on. It’s an amazing honor to pay homage to the legends whose backs this game was built upon.

As you walk through the building, you see how archaic the equipment was and how it has evolved. Seeing the leather helmets always evokes an emotion of shock; probably because in 20 years people walking through will have the same reaction to what we wear now. Seeing the busts of the players whose jerseys you begged to have is a special experience. Putting on headphones and hearing some of their legendary quotes, such as Deacon Jones’, “Roses are red, violets are blue, if you have any sense, you’ll keep Butkus away from you,” is equally as special. These are hallowed halls where only a finite number of players get to have their legacy live on forever. It’s quite the experience. Not to mention as a player in the game, that night you’ll be the only show on TV.

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Keith Rivers is in his seventh year in the NFL and currently plays linebacker for the Buffalo Bills. He was drafted ninth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in Policy, Planning and Development.

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