Professional football has many great names. It may have never had a better friend than Joe Horrigan.
Horrigan’s retirement from his job as the Pro Football Hall of Fame becomes official today, his final day on a job he’s held for 42 years.
While it’s impossible to quantify what he’s done for the Hall, he has become the foremost historian of the game, a “keeper of the flame” who has made the game’s history his life’s work.
There have been a number of profiles written on Horrigan in recent weeks, including Jeff Legowld’s at ESPN.com. The message that comes through all of them is the way Horrigan has helped grow the Hall into what it is today, and what it is becoming.
When he started in 1977, the Hall had nine full-time employees and three buildings, and most of its documents fit into three filing cabinets. Now, the Hall has 57 full-time employees, 100 part-timers and nearly 150 volunteers, and the campus covers 100 acres in Canton and is growing.
Through it all, Horrigan has been the man to document the history of the game. From attending milestone games to collect more artifacts through researching the early days of professional football, he’s had his hands on nearly all the game’s rich history.
After today, others will take up his torch. It would be hard for any of them to do so with the same care as Joe has shown. His name won’t resonate with fans the same way as the hundreds of players and coaches and contributors enshrined there. But those names wouldn’t resonate the same way without him. He left football, and the Hall, better than he found it.