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New holographic exhibit gives football fans the ultimate virtual experience

The Pro Football Hall of Fame brings the game's greats to virtual life.

Legendary running back Jim Brown, back in the day.

Getty Images

Check out "Broadway Joe" Namath's latest role: virtual host of the newest exhibit inside the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

A hologram of the football great introduces " A Game for Life," a 3D display set in a state-of-the-art theater designed to resemble an NFL locker room.

"It will give the fans goose bumps," Namath, a hall of fame quarterback himself, promised in a recent phone interview. "They will be blown away."

The exhibit, which fans see first on entering the hall, debuted late last month, just in time for Saturday's player enshrinement ceremony and Sunday's Hall of Fame game between the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts to literally kick off the league's preseason.

"A Game for Life" also includes holographic images of actors portraying legendary coaches George Halas and Vince Lombardi. Both deliver motivational speeches that Namath says will make fans want to strap on shoulder pads and hit the field.

Meet "Broadway," um, "Holographic" Joe Namath, host of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's newest exhibit. He guarantees it's a winner.

Pro Football Hall of Fame

Holographic appearances are becoming increasingly popular at exhibits, concerts and other events. A hologram of Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, popped up during this year's NBA All-Star technology summit in Toronto. Fans attending the Coachella music festival in 2012 were stunned to see a hologram of the late rapper-actor 2Pac take the stage with fellow rappers Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. A hologram of pop superstar Michael Jackson performed during the 2014 Billboard Music Awards.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in Canton, Ohio, is already one of sports' sacred shrines. It's a whirling tour of displays, bronze busts of the 303 elite players who have been inducted and video highlights of the game's greatest moments. "A Game for Life," which was completed in two years, is part of a $500 million renovation of the museum.

"A Game for Life" runs about 14 minutes and uses 15 projectors and 60 speakers. The virtual exhibit features several all-time greats sharing lessons they learned from the game and how they apply in real life. These include Jim Brown, arguably the best football player ever, talking about playing hard; Curtis Martin, who discusses growing up in a tough environment; Jim Kelly, who speaks on perseverance; and Alan Page, on the importance of education.

On choosing the charismatic Namath to introduce the exhibit, Joe Horrigan, the hall's executive vice president, said the former quarterback, broadcaster and actor was a natural choice.

"Joe is this iconic figure who gave this famous guarantee that his [underdog New York] Jets would win Super Bowl III, and he delivered. He delivers for us again in 'A Game for Life,'" Horrigan said.

To enhance the drama, Horrigan said the hall of fame enlisted big-time Hollywood talent, including Oscar-award winning producer Ed Jones, who was responsible for Happy Feet, to help design the exhibit and screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, who wrote the sports-underdog-themed classic films "Hoosiers" and "Rudy" to pen the script.

Admission to "A Game for Life" is included in the $24 ticket price to the hall.