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Professional Football Researchers Association Meets in Cleveland

by Randy Snow

Originally posted on Yahoo! Voices, Monday, June, 16, 2014


The Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA) held its 2014 biennial meeting in Cleveland, Ohio during the weekend of June 6-8. Approximately 35 members from across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada gathered to exchange ideas and to hear some great guest speakers. 

The weekend kicked off on Friday evening, June 6, at the Cleveland Browns practice facility in Berea, Ohio. PFRA Executive Director Chris Willis greeted the attendees and introduced a pair of guest speakers: longtime Cleveland radio sportscaster and author Tony Grossi and NFL Hall of Famer Dave Robinson who played for the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins. PFRA member Gregg Ficery also gave a presentation called, The Birth, Death, and Resurrection of Pro Football. The evening concluded with a tour of the Browns practice facility.

The meetings on Saturday, June 7, were held at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns home stadium. There were more guest speakers on the agenda including authors Terry Pluto, who wrote the book, Browns Town 1964, and Jonathan Knight who wrote The Cleveland Browns Bible.

But the highlight of the day came after a viewing of the Browns' 1964 highlight film. Dan Coughlin, a sportswriter who covered the 1964 Browns for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, acted as the moderator for a question and answer session with two men who played on the Cleveland Browns 1964 NFL Championship team; Jim Houston and Dick Schafrath. Both men grew up in Ohio where they played high school football. They also both attended Ohio State University and played for legendary coach Woody Hayes before going on to play for Cleveland and another legendary coach, Paul Brown.

The day concluded with a behind-the-scenes tour of FirstEnergy Stadium, which included the press box area, the team locker room and a trip down to the field.

Saturday Night Football

While most of the PFRA members headed back to the hotel after the stadium tour on Saturday, I headed to Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland for an Arena Football League game along with two other PFRA members, John Grasso and Mike Barksdale. The game featured the Cleveland Gladiators (9-1) and the Iowa Barnstormers (6-5). You may recall that the Barnstormers are the team that Super Bowl winning quarterback Kurt Warner once played for. The Gladiators set a team record that night for most points scored in a single game and defeated the Barnstormers 86-49. We had a great time that evening and after talking about football for two days it was great to actually take in a live game.

Sunday at the Hall of Fame

An optional event available for PFRA members on Sunday, June 8, was a tour of the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, which is about an hour's drive south of Cleveland. About a dozen members took advantage of this side trip before heading for home. The center is not open to the public, so this was an awesome opportunity for us to see it firsthand.

Draft Day Movie

The movie Draft Day starring Kevin Costner and Jennifer Garner was the fictional story of the Cleveland Browns wheeling and dealing during the 2014 NFL Draft. It took place at the team practice facility so I was very excited to possibly see some of the places where the movie was filmed. However, I was disappointed to learn during our tour of the facility Friday night that very little of the movie was actually filmed at the real practice facility. Most of the movie was filmed at a nearby college. That's Hollywood.

About the PFRA

The PFRA was founded in 1979 and today has more than 400 members in 10 countries world-wide. It produces a publication called The Coffin Corner six times a year that contains articles written by PFRA members.

Since 2003, the PFRA has also compiled an annual list of players who they feel deserve to be recognized for their playing careers but who are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is called the Hall of Very Good. Over the years, some inductees in the HoVG have also been voted into the Hall of Fame, including our Friday guest speaker, Dave Robinson.

Two years ago, PFRA members met in Mt. Laurel, NJ at the NFL Films headquarters. Plans are already underway for the 2016 PFRA meeting to be held in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

I have been a member of the PFRA since 2011 and this was the second consecutive biennial meeting I have attended. The history of football is something that I have been passionate about for many years and the PFRA is a great place to meet people who share my love of the game. We all want to preserve its rich history by telling the stories of the people and events that have raised professional football to the status it enjoys today.

For more information on the PFRA, visit http://www.profootballresearchers.org.


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