CANTON, Ohio -- The American Football League's 50th Anniversary Season kicks off in the 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 9th in Canton. The Tennessee Titans (playing as the Houston Oilers) take on the Buffalo Bills in the annual preseason classic in Pro Football Hall of Fame Field at Fawcett Stadium.
Fans visiting the museum during the upcoming Enshrinement Festival will be treated to some treasured artifacts, thanks due to the two remaining original AFL owners. Class of 2009 enshrinee Ralph Wilson, Jr. has owned the Bills since its beginning in the AFL in 1960. Bud Adams, the Titans owner, founded the franchise as the Houston Oilers 50 years ago.
Both Wilson and Adams shipped several mementos from the league's early years to Canton. The pieces will be on display in a special exhibit honoring the two owners and their football teams. Another exhibit titled, "Remember the AFL," opened at the Hall of Fame in May and focuses on the eight original AFL teams. The exhibit will be open through February 2010. A complement to the exhibit is the special website section, 50 Years After.
Among the many Oilers mementos arriving at the Hall of Fame was the jersey worn by long-time defensive back Jim Norton, who played for the team from 1960-68. He was the last original Oilers player to retire and at the time was the AFL's career leader in interceptions with 45. To honor his achievements, the team made his No. 43 the first jersey in team history to be retired. His career interception total remains a franchise best today.
Also among the other pieces Adams, who serves on the Board of Trustees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, sent were photos and special patches from the Oilers and Titans past.
On Monday, Bills staff members visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame to prepare for the upcoming Enshrinement Festival in early August. At Wilson's request, they brought several significant pieces from the Bills storied history, including the two AFL championship trophies the club won in 1964 and 1965. Wilson also had several other mementos delivered to Canton such as personal plaques and three special footballs given to him over the years.
Wilson will be formally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Aug. 8 at 6 p.m., CT. The Bills and Titans, both who will take the field in throwback AFL uniforms, start the 2009 NFL preseason in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday, August 9 at 7 p.m, CT.