NFL

How O.J. Simpson’s Hall of Fame Bust Ended Up on a Cleveland Interstate

Before June 17, 1994, do you ever think that someone would think to walk into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and steal the bust of O.J. Simpson? Probably not. After all, at that point, he was simply a former running back for the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers that did Hertz commercials and played Nordberg in TheĀ NakedĀ Gun movies. But after the white Bronco night and the ensuing “Trial of the Century,” everything changed and O.J. Simpson stories started getting a little strange.

O.J. Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985 following a stellar career

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After winning the Heisman Trophy at USC in 1968, O.J. Simpson was taken with the first overall pick in the following year’s NFL-AFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. It took him a few years to get acclimated to the pro game but once he did, he became one of the greatest running backs in history.

In 1972, his fourth pro season, he rushed for over 1,000 yards for the first time, running for 1,251 yards and six touchdowns. The following year, he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards. While others have done it since, one has to remember that teams only played 14 games back then. Simpson remains the only player to ever reach 2,000 yards in 14 games. He continued his stellar play over the next three seasons, rushing for 4,445 yards in that span.

He played his final season for the Bills in 1977 before returning to his hometown to finish out his career with the San Francisco 49ers. He ended his career with 11,236 rushing yards, at the time the second-most in history. In his first year of eligibility, O.J. Simpson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

The white Bronco chase and the ‘Trial of the Century’ changed everything

RELATED: What Happened to Al Cowlings, O.J. Simpson’s Former Teammate and White Bronco Driver?

Just short of nine years after being inducted into the Hall of Fame, O.J. Simpson made headlines for far different reasons. On June 12, 1994, the bodies of Simpson’s ex-wife, Nicole Brown, and 25-year-old Ron Goldman were found outside Brown’s condo in Brentwood. The pair had been stabbed to death and O.J. soon became a person of interest. On June 17, 1994, Simpson was scheduled to turn himself into police but the Hall of Famer instead decided to do what he always did best: he ran.

Hours passed and nobody knew where the former Heisman winner was but later that afternoon, he was spotted on a Southern California highway in a white Ford Bronco that was owned and driven by his former teammate and best friend, Al Cowlings. What followed was the most-watched pursuit in history as 95 million people tuned in to watch the low-speed chase that ended at Simpson’s home. He was then taken into custody and later charged with the murders.

What ensued became arguably the most famous court case in American history, which came to be known as the “Trial of the Century.” It was impossible to escape. Seemingly every magazine cover had O.J. Simpson’s face on it and seemingly every TV channel had some kind of story on it. It was chaos. And one evening, somebody went looking for a souvenir in Canton, Ohio.

O.J. Simpson’s Hall of Fame bust was stolen and left on the side of the road

O.J. Simpson
O.J. Simpson | Kevin Reece/Getty Images

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On Sunday, July 23, 1995, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was gearing up for Enshrinement Week for a class that included Steve Largent and Kellen Winslow. The kickoff parade had taken place that afternoon and the Associated Press estimated that some 1,300 people had visited the museum at some point during the day. And one of those 1,300 walked right out of the building with the two-foot-tall, 35-pound bust of O.J. Simpson. Just right out the front door.

One would have to think that it was taken pretty close to closing time as it had obviously become one of the biggest attractions in Canton. Hall of Fame officials said that no extra precautions had been taken to guard that one bust as they didn’t feel that it would have any value on the open market since it was a one-of-a-kind piece that could easily be identified, which meant that whoever tried to sell it would be easy to identify as well.

The very next day, it was found 50 miles away on Interstate 77 in Cleveland. It was unharmed and returned to its rightful place in the Hall, where it still remains today. The police released a sketch of a possible suspect but no arrest was ever made. To this day, nobody has ever come forward and confessed to the crime.

In related news, O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. To this day, nobody has ever come forward and confessed to the crime.