I was in Atlanta for the opening weekend of College Football and it pains me to say this, but… I didn’t get to go to the “best college season kickoff game ever”. If you didn’t know, the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic was pitting #1 Alabama against #3 Florida State.
And no, I didn’t stick around until Monday for #23 Tennessee vs Georgia Tech – even though both teams featured former Penn State Defensive Coordinators, Bob Shoop (TN) and Ted Roof (GT).
To top it off, both of these games were being played at the brand-spanking new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in downtown Atlanta.
Bummer, right? As Lee Corso would say, “not so fast!”.
Our reason for being in Atlanta was a wedding on Saturday evening. Landing late Friday afternoon and leaving Sunday afternoon left little time for any wandering and exploring, but we definitely made the most of it.
After landing Friday, we took a quick detour in search of some of Atlanta’s Tiny Doors Art Project. It’s a pretty unique project that installs small, six-inch tall doors in various locations throughout the city in an effort to highlight free, accessible art to the masses.
There are currently eleven doors installed in strategic locations, so you can make this a scavenger hunt as you traverse the city in search of these miniature portals. As we zeroed in on Door #6, we asked some people if they knew where we could find the Tiny Door. We were met with many quizzical looks, so, clearly, it’s not a widely known project – yet.
We finally found the door located outside the back of a unique art and antique store from which Door #6 derived its name, Paris on Ponce.
Time constraints didn’t allow us to explore others, but this unique art was intriguing and it left us wanting more.
On Saturday, we settled into the local pub to catch Penn State’s season opener against Akron. While nothing beats being in Beaver Stadium, sitting in a bar with a Yuengling, family and friends is a close second!
After the impressive win for the Lions, and before the wedding, we toured the grounds of the local winery, Chateau Elan. This place offers an impressive setting between Atlanta and Athens and clearly was home for plenty of UGA and Appalachian State fans, who were set to square off between the hedges later Saturday night.
After dropping off the girls, it left us about 4 hours before our flight later in the day. We heard that the new MB Stadium offers you the opportunity to get inside to check out the food court when there aren’t any games being played, so we decided to check it out.
The stadium is located in the heart of downtown Atlanta. This place is smack dab in the middle of everything – residential neighborhoods to the west and south and the city to the North and East. Next door to the north is the site of the former home of the Falcons, the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center. A short walk away to the northeast is Philips Arena, home of the NBA Hawks. Thankfully, we were there with no game in town. I can’t imagine the traffic during gameday.
Flashback to the last millennium, around 1998, when I traveled to South Bend to deliver a presentation on best practices for the Year 2000 transition to a group of manufacturers. Riveting, I know. It was a quick trip. I arrived late in the day and raced to the Doubletree, where the meeting was taking place that evening. I would be taking the first flight out the next morning. As I was jumping in the cab the next morning, I noticed that directly across street from the hotel sat the College Football Hall of Fame! How could I not know that?
I wasn’t about to let this latest opportunity pass me by.
As soon as we entered, we were greeted by a familiar face! Saquon Barkley, Penn State’s workhorse running back. At his current pace, he’s a shoe-in for being enshrined in the Hall in a few years.
The Hall is an impressive, 3-story facility filled with interactive exhibits and hands-on games. Just past the entry sits a wall that fills the three stories that’s covered with over 760 helmets, representing every college that fields a team – from FBS, to FCS to Division II and beyond.
Also downstairs is an area that allows you to test your football skills. I’m happy to report I passed all tests – easily making the 20-yard FG, dropping the 20-yard pass into the basket and maintaining possession after a diving reception.
On the third floor, you can explore the inductees through an innovative, interactive display. Searching Penn State, I quickly realized how little I knew about some of their players of the past. Guys like Pete Mauthe, Eugene Miller and Dexter Very were all new names to me. Seventeen Nittany Lions in all are enshrined, putting them in the Top 20 of all schools.
The usual names were there, including Shane Conlan, Curt Warner, Jack Ham, Lydell Mitchell, John Cappelletti and of course, JoePa.
In the Trophy Area, sat the William V Campbell Trophy, AKA the Academic Heisman. This trophy was previously known as the Vincent dePaul Draddy Trophy. I’m not sure why it was renamed in honor of Campbell, a college athlete who went on to become the Chairman of Intuit. Penn Stater John Urschel and Tim Tebow are two of the highlighted recipients.
Another area displayed the changes in uniforms over time. The onesie below is Charley Trippi’s jersey from his days at Georgia in the 1940s. Trippi, born in Pittston, PA, went on to become a Chicago Cardinal and is also enshrined in the Ring of Honor at the Arizona Cardinals stadium in Glendale. Fun Fact: Trippi is the only member in the Pro Football Hall of Fame to have accumulated over 1,000 yards receiving, rushing and passing in a career.
One area where Paterno was inconspicuously absent was on the recently painted Coaching Legends Wall of Quotes.
There are plenty of awesome exhibits throughout the Hall – everything from tailgating trends to team traditions. It gives you a great education on all things college football.
Other interactive areas of the Hall allowed you record yourself as the “guest picker” on the set of ESPN’s Gameday in between Reece Davis and Desmond Howard and then test your announcing skills by calling a famous play – my choice, Auburn’s Kick Six in the Iron Bowl.
If you’re ever in Atlanta, take the time and spend a couple of hours here. There’s plenty to see and do, regardless of your team.
Last but not least, congratulations to Ryan and Cat! While Tiny Doors and the Hall were fun side trips, nothing can compare to celebrating your special day with you.
Stop Wondering. Start Wandering!