Reporting from Canton, Ohio
When a Pro Football Hall of Famer is enshrined, he receives 3 gifts symbolic of his excellence: the bronze bust, ring, and gold jacket. Art McNally, soon to be the first NFL official in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, received his ring at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Thursday and had his gold jacket bestowed upon him on Friday night at the Enshrinee’s Gold Jacket Dinner, held by the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce in downtown Canton, Ohio.
At the ceremony, each enshrinee was honored with a highlight video before they were greeted by 108 existing Hall of Famers, just prior to receiving their gold jackets. McNally, 97, was not present in Canton for the weekend’s events, and his gold jacket was accepted on his behalf by his grandchildren Connor and Shannon O’Hara.
Prior to the playing of McNally’s video, NFL Network anchor, and master of ceremonies for the event, Rich Eisen introduced McNally to the over 4,000 attendees. “After further review,” Eisen joked, “it’s now time to put an official into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The one and only Art McNally finally gets his Hall of Fame moment.” The video featured clips of McNally in his role as an officiating observer in the early 2010s interacting with league personalities in stadiums across the league. In the video, McNally remarked, “When [NFL officials] officiate, they officiate for those players on the field, and those respective coaches on the sideline who have tremendous pressure on them, and finally, for the number of people throughout the country — millions of our fans — whose passion and love of the game has made it so great.”
The pre-recorded remarks embodied the true spirit of Art McNally. He took the time to speak on the importance of the officials that he oversaw during his tenure, and not on his individual accolades. A selfless leader, McNally concluded with a guiding beacon of advice for all officials: “Make the calls the proper way that they should be, with a heavy dose of common sense.”
McNally’s grandchildren then made their way onto the circular stage in the center of the arena and received the gold jacket from Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Earlier in the ceremony, Goodell took time to speak about the impact that McNally had on his early career as a young intern in the league. “Art McNally was one of those few people who treated everybody the same. As an intern, he treated me the same as he treated an official. He was an extraordinary man,” Goodell said. “Art was a true hero, but also the perfect Hall of Famer.”
In addition to McNally’s family being present, some retired NFL officials also were in attendance to pay tribute to their friend and former boss. Those in attendance included referee Tom White and line judge Mark Steinkerchner, among others. In an exclusive interview with Football Zebras, Phil Luckett, a referee and back judge for 16 seasons, spoke highly of McNally at the conclusion of the ceremony. “I’m proud to be part of an organization that recognized Art for all that he did for the game,” Luckett remarked. “Representing us, we were certainly glad that a man deserving with all that he taught us and did so much for the game. For me, I was just glad to be a part of it. I’m proud to be here as an official.”
He has his ring. He has his gold jacket. Soon it will be time for Art McNally to receive the third gift: the famed bronze bust.