19 Hall of Fame Gridiron Greats Visiting Israel

Several hundred Israeli players and fans will get to meet the ‘Gold Jackets’ in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Haaretz Sports Staff
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Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.
Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.Credit: AFP
Haaretz Sports Staff

The American football community in Israel is hosting a group of 19 former NFL greats at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem, American Football in Israel has announced.

A few hundred Israeli players and local NFL football fans will be on hand this Sunday at Kraft Family Stadium, Jerusalem, to receive the distinguished players, referred to as “Gold Jackets” after being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer will be accompanying the visitors on the trip, dubbed “Touchdown in Israel – Mission of Excellence.”

The group includes retired stars Raymond Berry, who retired as the NFL's all-time leading receiver; cornerback Mel Blount; wide receiver Tim Brown; defensive tackle Curley Culp; defensive end and linebacker Chris Doleman; guards John Hannah and Tom Mack;  cornerbacks MIke Haynes and Roger Wehrli; safeties Ken Houston and Paul Krause; running backs Floyd LIttle, Curtis Martin and Thurman Thomas; tackles Ron Mix and Rayfield Wright; fullback Jim Taylor; linebacker Andre Tippett; and defensive end Jack Youngblood.

The program in Jerusalem will include addresses by Kraft, Dermer, Pro Football Hall of Fame President David Baker and AFI President Steve Leibowitz. Several members of the Hall of Fame will recall stories from their playing days and the values they learned from the game that they applied to their lives after football. All of the football legends will take part in a “breakout session” where they will individually share football tips, stories and pose for photos with Israeli players and fans. The emcee for the event is CBS Sports’ James Brown.

The Gold Jackets viewed a series of scrimmages at Kfar Sava municipal field. Several of the former NFL players joined the Israeli teams as “honorary coaches,” according to the AFI, providing insights to the local players.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in 1963 with 17 original enshrinees. There are currently 295 players, coaches and contributors who have been elected to the Hall of Fame. Robert Kraft and the Kraft Family have been the leading sponsors of football in Israel since 1999, when Kraft Family Stadium was opened. Dermer, a member of the AFI Hall of Fame, was a leading football player in the Israeli league, quarterbacking the national team.