The Road to the Hall in Waco
Please be aware that events and locations may be closed due to growing health concerns. Please consider take-out dining, purchasing a gift card for the time being, or visiting for future events.
Outsiders can say what they want about the Lone Star State, but when it comes to music and sports–-you can’t mess with Texas. Whether you’re into blues or country, football, baseball, or just about any other sport- Texas may have more of these music and sports legends than any state in the country. Now the Texas Music Hall of Fame is in Carthage, about 130-plus miles east of Frank Kent Country in Corsicana. But the Texas Sports Hall of Fame in Waco is less than half that distance, and it is a great experience for any sports fan. Just take Route 31 southwest for the 56-mile drive from the Frank Kent lot in Corsicana. The TSHOF is home to over 350 athletes, coaches, and broadcasters from Texas high school, college, and professional sports. It is nothing short of amazing to see how many great athletes have played for Texas at some point in their storied careers.
Adults reliving their childhoods with some of their favorite athletes, teams, and even individual athletes will look wide-eyed at the exhibits. For the exhibits, visitors can find the mini-football field in the Southwest Conference and Cotton Bowl gallery, the Phi Slama Jama display for the University of Houston basketball team of the early 1980s, and the tribute to high school football, including the Permian Panthers of “Friday Night Lights” fame, to name a few of the favorites.
Of course, there has to be a Nolan Ryan exhibit, and a Roger Clemens as well. So when you check those out, it might be a good time to have that argument with your friend about who was a better pitcher. Aside from that, you’re sure to see at least one display on the wall you didn’t expect (I had no idea Drew Brees was from Austin). If you’re still not convinced, here’s the history of a couple of the most exciting football players in NFL history to get you fired up for the TSHOF. In Texas, football is king, so let’s focus on a couple of electric running backs, two of the best to ever play the game. Earl Campbell and Eric Dickerson are two Texas football icons with contrasting approaches to the way they played the running back position.
Grit and Grace
One of the all-time most badass and most Texas athletes ever is the human wrecking ball, Earl Campbell. Today he is considered one of the best running backs in NFL history, the gold standard of the power running back and an easy choice for the NFL Hall of Fame. He grew up in Tyler, Texas (the “rose capital of the world”), and won a high school state championship as the star of the team. Campbell was later nicknamed the “the Tyler Rose.” He was heavily recruited for college; he chose the University of Texas Longhorns.
After winning the most prestigious individual award in college football in 1977 (the Heisman Trophy), he entered the NFL draft, where he was picked first overall by the Houston Oilers in 1978. Earl easily would have made the TSHOF if he stopped there, but he was not close to being done. In the NFL, Campbell went on to win numerous awards during his professional career, including the most prestigious individual award once again––the Most Valuable Player award. With the exception of the tail end of his career in the NFL, he played all of his football life in Texas.
When you visit the TSHOF in Waco, be sure to find the highlights of Earl Campbell because they are some of the best football highlights of all-time: a running back with no regard for his well-being who used his head like a battering ram. Campbell would drive his helmet into safeties and linebackers, knocking them straight back on their backs (it’s supposed to be the other way around). When Earl was a Houston Oiler, he used to blow up defensive players like they did something to his family. Meanwhile, his Southwestern Conference all-time rushing record from college remained intact. But it did not stand for long before another Texan with an altogether different style came along to break his record.
Eric Dickerson grew up in Sealy, a small city about 50 miles west of Houston. Standing at 6.3-feet, Dickerson was unusually tall for a running back and paired with his amazing speed, grace, and strength; it was easy to see why he was the number one college football recruit in the country coming out of high school. He chose the Southern Methodist University Mustangs of Dallas (this was before their football program got the infamous “death penalty” from the NCAA).
Dickerson split time in the backfield with another future NFL starting running back Craig James, and they quickly caught the attention of the sports world, earning them the nickname the “Pony Express” Despite the fact that Dickerson was not the full-time running back for the Mustangs, he still broke Earl Campbell’s all-time Southwestern Conference rushing record and tallied the third most votes for the 1982 Heisman Trophy. Dickerson never played football for an NFL team from Texas, but when he retired, he was a no-brainer inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame. What he accomplished in the first two years of his career alone, should give an idea of his physical gifts and awesome potential. In his 1983 rookie season, he rushed for 1,808 yards, the record for most yards by a rookie in NFL history. The next year he rushed for 2,105 yards, the record for most yards in a single season in NFL history. Both records still stand today.
A Post-Hall of Fame Meal
If you’re hungry when you leave, there are a few different options close by, but a burger and a shake seems like a good call after the hall. And you can have that shake spiked if you like, as long as you’re 21-years-old of course.
Twisted Root Burger Co. at 821 S 2nd street is only a couple of blocks away from the TSHOF. If you like spicy, try the western burger––pepper jack, bacon, fried onion strings, and jalapeno. Or the “freshman 15” if you are REALLY hungry––smashed fries on top, melted cheddar, a fried egg, and bacon. Or one of the other thirteen burger styles off their creative menu (and concept), and swap out that beef burger for wagyu, buffalo, venison, veggie, turkey, ostrich, camel, rabbit, boar, elk, or lamb. Wow, that’s impressive. There are also delicious salads and three different options of twisted cheese fries, which are incredibly tasty (and filling).
One of the best parts of the menu is for those over the drinking age that can try one of the “spiked shakes” like the banana and Bailey’s, the Oreo and amaretto, or the creme de menthe and chocolate chips. It might be a challenge to eat one of those big burgers with the twisted cheese fries on the side and a spiked shake as well. But when the going gets tough, and you can’t eat another bite, just remember that you came from the TSHOF.
Be inspired by the greatness of the inductees. Now get back in the game and finish that big burger, fries and shake and know you’ve had one heck of a great day.