Imagine receiving a phone call knowing you were going to be part of the first class inducted into a new hall of fame.
Now imagine finding out that your hall of fame induction was not happening because the entire event was prevented from happening.
Almost a year ago to the day, Tyler’s Reggie Howell had his plane tickets purchased, hotel rooms booked and was finalizing what to take in his suitcase for the trip to Pasadena, California, as part of the first-ever National Fantasy Football Convention. The longtime Tyler resident and three-time Hollytree Country Club Golf Champion would be part of the first-ever inducted class to the Fantasy Football Hall of Fame.
The event, dubbed the NFFC, was created by then Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and ESPN fantasy expert Matthew Berry. It was to cover three days and bring fans unprecedented access to NFL players and personalities with events, parties, keynote speakers, autograph signing sessions and more.
He was chosen for induction based in large part on an article I wrote in 2012. Howell said the organizers read the story on him and his Texas Football League, which was the first fantasy football league in Texas. He created it in 1979. Called the Texas Football League, it held its first draft in 1980, with Earl Campbell of the Houston Oilers the first player drafted in the TFL.
He was being inducted along with legendary quarterback Brett Favre and Gill Winkenbach, who was being honored posthumously because the Oakland Raiders limited partner was credited with creating fantasy football in 1962.
Howell was elated and ready to roll, but the event never happened, thanks to Roger Goodell and the National Football League stepping in at the last minute to prevent it.
Well, it took a year, but Howell will get his Hall of Fame moment.
And no plane tickets were required.
The 2017 National Fantasy Football Convention kicks off at 9 a.m. Saturday at Fair Park in Dallas with an official ribbon-cutting event. It will be followed by fan-friendly experiences and chances to meet fantasy personalities and analysts, along with current and retired NFL players.
“I never ever thought it was over because I talked to Romo’s group and I knew they were going to persevere,” Howell told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. “They were canceled in 2015 too when it was in Las Vegas. I feel pretty confident that this would happen. I wasn’t sure where it would be. The city of Dallas stepped up and signed a long-term contract.”
Howell said 25 Cowboys past and present are committed to attend the event in some form or fashion, along with 25 current players, like David Johnson, running back for the Arizona Cardinals.
As for the many retired players also in hand, Romo is now one of those guys.
The official release about the NFFC does not list Romo’s name, but everyone in the fantasy football community that has followed this saga for the past three years knows this is Romo and Matthew Berry’s creation.
It is finally a reality.
The first Hall of Fame class will be announced and inducted at 2:45 pm. Berry and Michael Vick are hosting the ceremony.
“They are doing it as the perfect fantasy team,” Howell said. “Peyton Manning as quarterback, LaDainian Tomlinson and Marshal Faulk as running backs, Randy Moss at receiver, Tony Gonzalez at tight end and me. I guess I am going in as the owner.”
The entire convention will take place over two days at Fair Park. Some of the highlights Saturday include an expert fantasy draft at 12:15 p.m., a women’s workshop for those interested in learning more about fantasy football, hosted by ESPN’s Stephania Bell and fellow fantasy experts Liz Loza and Jersey Jen.
Berry will teach fantasy players the “Art of Trash Talk” at 3:45 p.m.
Sunday’s main event will feature five lucky fans, who will take part in the “Ultimate Fantasy League” which also has five NFL players: David Johnson (Cardinals), Jeremy Hill (Bengals), Taylor Gabriel (Falcons), Charles Tapper (Cowboys) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Lions).
Tickets aren’t cheap, but the access is unprecedented. A Field Level Pass is $79 and includes admission to the fan expo, all training sessions and player interaction opportunities. A MVP pass is $299 and means access to the exclusive Kick-Off Party and all Field Level activities. A kid’s pass is $39 for ages 6-13. Children 5 and under get in free.
For more information, visit gonffc.com.