CANTON — About 90 minutes before the ceremony, the rains began to subside over central Ohio. The late-afternoon skies turned clear and bright, as if the football gods — perhaps on notice from Tim Russert and Jack Kemp — were smiling down on the Hall of Fame inductions at Fawcett Stadium.
Outside a Bills party tent, Mildred Jackson held an old color photograph in her hands. It was a shot of Thurman Thomas and Bruce Smith, walking side by side at Rich Stadium in the early 1990s. The two Hall of Famers seemed so very young, bursting with life and possibility.