CANTON, OHIO – During the Grand TimkenSteel Parade, a tradition for the Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend, there were huge inflatable balloons, classic cars, walking units, football legends and bands as far as the eyes could see – then almost an hour into the popular parade that drew more than 200,000 spectators to downtown Canton – an Ocean came out of nowhere. It was the heavily anticipated appearance of the “Ocean of Soul” Marching Band from Texas Southern University. It was as if someone suddenly turned on a Bose Radio with surround sound. Their sound was crisp, clear and classic TSU. Their moves were smooth and in step – everything about the Ocean was fine-tuned and in step.
The Ocean, as the band is affectionately called, performed at several events for the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement weekend. The Ocean traveled to Canton to usher in TSU alumnus Michael Strahan’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The TSU Band performances included appearances at the NFL statue unveiling themed, the Birth of the NFL, which occurred at the birth site of professional football, also at the TimkenSteel Grand Hall of Fame parade, on the iconic steps of the Hall of Fame museum, and during the fan tailgating experience. To say that the crowd was excited is a understatement. Everyone from the NFL Commissoner Roger Godell, Hall of Fame President and Executive Director David Baker, Mayor of Canton William Healy II, to the 200,000 in attendance at the parade and statue unveiling were thrilled to hear a band with such a powerful sound. A bevy of ‘thank you for coming’; ‘you guys are awesome’; “we’ve got to get you back here next year,” and ‘we’ve never heard sounds like that’ were bestowed upon the band and the TSU contingency travelling with the band to this historic occasion in the university’s history.
“We think we delivered exactly what organizers ordered – a stellar performance by our student musicians. It was first class and I truly am happy with the band’s performances. It was easy to see that the students gave this performance their all. And it couldn’t get any better than that. They brought it,” said Eva Pickens, TSU’s vice president of University Advancement that encompasses Marketing, Communications and Community Relations. “The Ocean delivered on its promise to present an performance that would not be forgotten. People clapped, shouted, danced and struted their stuff to the big sounds and tunes of the “Ocean.”
“This band is the biggest thing happening in Canton,” said Victor Strahan, brother of Michael. “We [Strahan family] are so appreciative that y’all made the journey and are here to represent on my brother’s behalf.” There were pockets of alumni, friends and supporters that made the trip to Canton from Houston, Atlanta, New York, Dallas, California, Louisiana and places across the globe to show their support for Michael. Spotted in the crowd were former teammates from both Texas Southern University and the NY Giants.
The University has to thank Michael Strahan, Kevin Hart, members of the TSU National Alumni Association, its chapters and friends for making this trip possible. It was important to make the trip to show our support for Strahan. Additionally, this initiative gave the university a chance to showcase its talent and to talk one on one with officials about TSU’s mission, goals and desire to recruit a diversity of students from across the country. TSU President John Rudley and Canton Mayor William J. Healy, II are already mapping out ways to get students from Canton to Texas Southern University through the Mayor’s already established scholarship initiative. NFL representatives are talking about inviting the band again. TSU, I’m sure, will gladly accept the invitation.