Even the most transcendent football players have to wait five years after retiring before they are eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mo Gaba’s spot was secured in one phone call.
Mo, a huge fan of Baltimore sports and inspiration to many because of his battle with childhood cancer, is now in the Hall of Fame. The Braille draft card Mo used to announce one of the Ravens’ fourth-round picks in the 2019 draft is displayed at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
On April 27, 2019, at the age of 13, Mo made history as the first person to announce an NFL draft pick using Braille when he announced that the Ravens were drafting Ben Powers, a guard out of Oklahoma, with one of the team’s fourth-round picks.
For football players and fans, the Pro Football Hall of Fame is the sacred place where only the best of the best are honored for their contributions to the league and the game. Players have to wait five years after they retire to be considered for enshrinement. But all it took was one phone call for Mo to get his place in the “Pro Football Today” exhibit.
Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker said he got a call from Ravens senior vice president of marketing Brad Downs in late July.
“He told me that [John] Harbaugh and Eric DeCosta had a great affection for Mo and they were wondering if it was possible for us to [display] the draft card that he used in Braille for the first time ever to announce Ben Powers as the fourth pick in the draft [in the Hall of Fame],” to which Baker said, “We have six million pictures and 40 million documents, so my response was not only can we do it, we’re excited to do it.”
The draft card, along with Mo’s story and pictures, are already on display in the museum, which is open to visitors. Baker said he was able to tell Mo and his family about the addition to the Hall of Fame before Mo died July 28 at 14 years old.
“It basically tells the story of Mo being a real superfan for the Baltimore Ravens and how he came to be prominent calling into radio shows and how much he cared and how much the Ravens cared about him, [and] that he made this history-making moment,” Baker said on Glenn Clark Radio Aug. 3.“That’s what we do at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We capture history respectfully. We guard legacies.
“So, when I got back to the Hall of Fame, it was my privilege to make a video for Mo’s mom and for Mo. … [The exhibit has] his picture, his story, the draft card itself, and our job will be to carry that legacy on forever for him. It will always be a part of our archive and our exhibit here.”
Baker said the Hall of Fame tracks the frequency of certain words and phrases in induction speeches, and the one word that always comes up is love. Mo fits that, according to Baker.
Some players retire and know that they will be inducted as soon as their five years are up. Baker said although he thought Ray Lewis knew he’d be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, when he went to knock on Lewis’ hotel door to inform him of the news, Lewis wasn’t concerned with his success or his wealth.
“He’s thinking about his mom, he’s thinking about the people that got him here, he’s thinking about the journey,” Baker said. “He’s thinking about the perseverance he had to have and the times when he didn’t think he was going to make it.”
Mo’s story was shorter. He was younger. He never played. But he didn’t let that stop him from being a positive and charismatic voice everywhere he went.
“Mo’s journey is no different than that. It may not be as long, but it was certainly bright,” Baker said. “I think that to see a guy like Coach Harbaugh, or Eric DeCosta, or the players, or the staff turn their affection to Mo and the love that they gave him and the love that Mo gave back, that’s what the game is all about. … That is at the core of it.”
Baker said that the Hall of Fame is more than just a museum. He said visitors go there because they feel a connection to the way football impacts their lives. The Hall of Fame serves as the guardian of football history, past and present, and as such, Baker said he will make sure Mo is remembered as part of the story.
“This is a tremendous loss for the Baltimore Ravens and all the fans. It’s also a great story. … His laugh should be remembered forever by everyone involved,” Baker said. “This is where the history of the game is kept. I want to promise you, I want to promise Coach Harbaugh, Eric DeCosta, Brad Downs and all the fans of Baltimore that we are going to guard and keep Mo’s legacy here forever.”
For more from Baker, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame