By Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
Two first-year eligible players were selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 — cornerback Darrell Revis and offensive tackle Joe Thomas — while worthy cornerback Albert Lewis, in his 20th and final year of modern-era eligibility, was relegated to the senior-category abyss.
Modern-era selections for the Class of 2023, along with Revis and Thomas, were defensive back Ronde Barber, linebacker Zach Thomas and pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware. The PFHOF announced the Class of 2023 on the televised NFL Honors show Thursday night from Phoenix, in the desert neighborhood where Kansas City and Philadelphia will meet in Super Bowl LVII Sunday.
Also in the Class of 2023 are three seniors — cornerback Ken Riley, defensive lineman Joe Klecko and linebacker Chuck Howley — along with coach Don Coryell.
I was part of the Hall’s 49-person Selection Committee that met virtually Jan. 17 to conduct the annual vote and remained mum on the outcome until Thursday's announcement.
Barber, Howley, Klecko, Revis, Joe Thomas, Zach Thomas and Ware learned of their election when a Hall of Famer knocked on their door. Those encounters can be seen Saturday, when NFL Network airs a one-hour special, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The families of Coryell and Riley received the news in a phone call that included Hall of Fame President Jim Porter and a Hall of Famer.
We believe Joe Thomas was the most deserving player on the list, first-ballot concerns be damned. He raised the bar at the important left tackle position back when he won the Outland Trophy at Wisconsin in 2006. His dominance continued throughout an 11-year career with the Cleveland Browns, beginning as a rookie in 2007 when he started all 16 games. He maximized a rare combination of size (6-6, 312), strength and agility while enduring 10,363 consecutive snaps until injured in 2017. Through all that he allowed only 30 sacks.
Revis, also a first-ballot inductee, was so adept at man coverage that he was nicknamed “Revis Island.” Thanks to free agency, Revis leveraged his reputation, and increased his income, as a roving mercenary. Drafted No. 14th overall out of Pitt in 2007 by the New York Jets, he started all 16 games that season and was on the PFWA All-Rookie team. After six seasons with the Jets, Revis signed with Tampa in 2013, then New England in 2014, returned to the Jets in 2015 and finished his career with Kansas City in 2017. He was All-Pro four seasons (2009-2012) and collected 29 interceptions during his career, returning three for touchdowns.
Functionally, we see Ronde Barber as a hybrid cornerback/safety/linebacker. Nominally listed as a cornerback-safety, Barber was more effective the closer he played to the line of scrimmage, somewhat similar to Tampa Bay teammate and previous Bucs Hall of Famer John Lynch. Barber's best ability was availability as he played 241 regular season games, which included 215 consecutive starts, in a 16-year career. His other differentiating stat is he is the only player in NFL history with at least 45 interceptions (47) and 25 sacks. Barber, who led the team in interceptions six seasons, was named first-team All-Pro three times and second-team All-Pro twice.
At only 5-11, 235, Zach Thomas was underestimated by many when the Miami Dolphins drafted him in the fifth round out of Texas Tech in 1996 — 154th overall. He was a steal. In his first year, Thomas intercepted three passes, returned one for a touchdown, led the team with 131 tackles and 49 assists, was named Miami's MVP and AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was a long-time favorite of NFL Draft Scout lead analyst Brian "Hitman" Hitterman because not only were they of similar size (Brian taller at 6-1) at the same college position, but they both achieved savant status in understanding the fine details of their job.
Thomas tortured opposing quarterbacks, getting into their minds and disrupting their ability to function during a game. He knew what they were going to do and they knew he knew.
"Zach Thomas would call out my whole scheme," said former Indianapolis/Denver and now Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. "He would bark out our play when we came to the line. It was unnerving." Future HOF quarterback Tom Brady agrees, saying "Zach Thomas was the toughest defender I've known. I hated to play against him."
Thomas led the Dolphins in tackles 10 times, made at least 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons, collected 22 tackles (14 solo) in a 2001 playoff game against Baltimore. He was first-team All-Pro five times, second-team All-Pro twice and is one of the most perceptive selections in the Class of 2023.
Outside linebacker/defensive end DeMarcus Ware played 12 seasons, nine with Dallas and three with Denver. He set the tone for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50 against Carolina with an early strip sack. He had a career total of 138.5 sacks, 117 of which are still a Cowboys franchise record.
If the job for 49 selectors was to pick the five best modern-era players from the final 15, it didn't happen. We'll get back to who the five were from our perspective.
As is the annual custom, people will obsess over the names of players who were NOT selected, including three wide receivers — Andre Johnson, Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne, along with return specialist Devin Hester. All three receivers were eliminated in the cutdown from 10 to five and Hester, who received a lot of play on social media, dropped out early in the move from 15 to 10.
Although voting tallies are not revealed, it is probable that the receivers cancelled out each other due to a split in the voting at that position. This is reminiscent of the recent bottleneck at wide receiver involving Cris Carter, Andre Reed and Tim Brown, which lingered with a lot of controversy from 2007 until 2015, by which time all three gained entrance. Johnson was in his second year of eligibility while both Holt and Wayne were in their fourth.
This was an extraordinarily talented finalist list of 15 and it was predictable that the selection process would include a lot of mental gymnastics. After all, the goal is to select the best five modern era candidates to be added to the seniors and coach. But considerations are weird regarding seniority. We'll get back to that.
How deep was the talent in the final 15? Well, joining Hester in the group that bowed out in the cut to 10 were linebacker Patrick Willis, DE/OLB Dwight Freeney, offensive tackle Willie Anderson and safety Darren Woodson — all worthy HOF candidates who will make it someday.
Joining the three receivers in the cut to five were defensive end Jared Allen, and Albert Lewis, who, sadly, is now in the huge senior group.
Convoluting the process was the simultaneous presence of those three wide receivers, whom many believe are somewhat similarly qualified, which we do not. And there is Hester, the return specialist, whom some believe is not worthy due to part-time playing status, a challenge faced by punter Ray Guy who finally made it as a senior. And perhaps there could have been more deliberation on the ramifications of failing to select a perfectly HOF-worthy player in his 20th and final year of modern era eligibility, cornerback Albert Lewis.
Regardless, the selection committee does seem to be influenced, even if only subliminally, by a recency bias turbocharged by the increased mass media coverage via ESPN, which came along in the 1980s, and the NFL Network, which began in the late 1990s.
So, 21 first-time eligible players were selected in the last 11 years. That's 38.2 percent of the 55 total enshrinees. Four times since 2013, there were three first-timers selected. Good luck if you are a player whose career was either long ago or with a team of little notoriety.
Cornerback Ken Riley, who made it as a senior candidate this year, had a double whammy. He played in small media, lightly regarded Cincinnati from 1969 until 1983. Still, he made 65 interceptions, which remains tied for fifth most in NFL history. But the Bengals were not consistent winners and the other starting cornerback on his team, Lemar Parrish, received more publicity because he was also a returner.
In fact, despite being one of the best cornerbacks in the league throughout his career, Riley never received a Pro Bowl invite, which in his day was a popularity contest among the voters — fellow players. Quarterbacks told me back then and again recently that they respected him to the point they tried to avoid him.
Riley was named All-Pro in his 15th and final season (1983), thanks to his eight interceptions, including two pick sixes. Selectors apparently were dissuaded from selecting him due to those Pro Bowl slights during his career. They doubled down on those mistakes rather than overcome them.
And so it is that Riley, who died in 2020, will be inducted posthumously thanks to miscarriages in judgment similar to those that prevented quarterback Ken Stabler and receiver Cliff Branch from being inducted while they were alive.
Here's the thing. There are no real guidelines by which selectors should make their decision, except they are told only to consider what the candidate did on the field, which is an attempt to eliminate personal behavior that has no impact on the team or the game. But even that guideline can be pushed aside.
An example would be wide receiver Terrell Owens, a self-indulgent, animated character who dances to his own drummer. He was eligible three years before being allowed in. Not coincidentally, that was in 2010, the first year of eligibility for Randy Moss.
Owens had slightly better stats than Moss in almost the exact number of games, but some of his actions -- post touchdown celebrations, sideline blowups, working out in front of his house while on suspension -- were off-putting. On the field, during plays, he gave 100 percent all the time, including signing a waiver to play in a Super Bowl with a broken leg that was not entirely healed.
But by the time Moss became eligible for the HOF, he had cleaned up his act. Disregarded or forgotten was his poor on-field demeanor in Minnesota ("Randy plays on Randy's time" he responded when accused of dogging it) and Oakland ("I'm injured at the end of my career,” he said about his so-so performance on a bad team, then went to the Patriots and caught 25 touchdowns in one season). He was even accepted as part of the media, which adopted his "You've been Mossed" schtick as a popular segment.
Talent and production-wise, Moss certainly deserved to be a shoo-in. But it would have been hard to rationalize inducting Moss and not Owens based on their remarkably similar NFL production. So when Moss became eligible, Owens was also inducted. You could see it coming.
Now we look forward to debates over the Class of 2024, which will include first-year eligibles tight end Antonio Gates and defensive end Julius Peppers. Returnees rejected from the Class of 2023 include those three wide receivers (Johnson, Holt and Wayne), linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Jared Allen, defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, safety Darren Woodson and Hester, the returner.
And, as the discussion over the three wide receivers rolls on, we also hear rumblings about other excellent, eligible receivers: Steve Smith Sr. and Hines Ward. And isn't that Larry Fitzgerald looming on the horizon?
We have been on the HOF selection committee for more than 30 years and still remain surprised almost annually by some the contorted concepts that enter into conversations. We have been immersed in the NFL Draft since 1967 and began NFL Draft Scout in 1987. The annual challenge in the draft is to predict which players should be best as professionals. We must project them. Selecting Hall of Famers should be easier. They already showed what they could do in the NFL.
Looking at this year's final modern-era 15 as a draft and judging players primarily on proven playing ability, with some consideration to the threat of a deserving candidate falling into the seniors category, here is our order of drafting, er, selecting:
1. OT Joe Thomas
2. LB Patrick Willis
3. WR Andre Johnson
4. CB Darrell Revis
5. CB Albert Lewis
Yes, it was close on that fifth pick, but Lewis was definitely a Hall of Fame-caliber player, and we predict he will eventually be inducted as part of the already overburdened senior process. So why wait? Hopefully we will all still be alive when he makes it as a senior.
As for the three wide receivers, we obviously believe Johnson is more deserving than Holt or Wayne. They had similar production — ranging from Holt's 13,382 receiving yards, 74 TD catches in 11 seasons to Johnson's 14,185 yards, 70 TD catches in 14 seasons and Wayne's 14,345 yards, 82 TD catches in 14 seasons. However, Wayne and Holt were each part of exceptional offensive machines: Wayne with the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts and Holt with the St. Louis Rams' Greatest Show on Turf. They were surrounded by stars, many of whom already are in the Hall of Fame.
Conversely, Johnson played the bulk of his career with Houston Texans teams bereft of All-Pro, let alone Hall of Fame, talent. He was pretty much the only offensive weapon opponents had to stop. They tried with multiple players on him and tricky defenses. And he beat them anyway. All due respect to the abilities of Holt and Wayne, we would select Johnson ahead of or instead of them.
Selecting Albert Lewis over, say Ronde Barber, wasn't difficult in our mind. Barber has a good resume and his case was presented by a great orator, Ira Kaufman, who also helped John Lynch gain admission. But it was only Barber's sixth year of eligibility. Here in California we say “accept no wine before its time.” Barber could have ripened another year or so.
Lewis was wilting on the vine. He was a truly great, but underappreciated, cornerback for 16 years. If his 42 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles and 12.5 sacks didn't impress you, then consider his 11 blocked punts — a play that can dramatically change a game — are tied for the NFL record (Ted Hendricks). It is our fault as selectors that Lewis was not among the finalists before his final year of modern-era eligibility. Seems we were focused on rushing the installation of high-publicized first-timers and didn't bring the entire picture into proper focus.
We expect to be discussing Lewis again soon, as part of our duties on the senior committee.
Meantime, here are mini bios on the final 15 from the modern era, showing how far each went, and the three seniors and coach Coryell.
HOF Finalist: 7 | Year of Eligibility: 36
NFL Career: 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
Seasons: 14, Games: 195
Born: Oct. 17, 1924, in Seattle
Died: July 1, 2010, in Le Mesa, Calif.
Revived the St. Louis Cardinals (1973-77) and the San Diego Chargers (1978-1986), leading both franchises to the playoffs after extended postseason droughts … Posted overall winning records with each organization … AP’s NFL Coach of the Year in 1974 … UPI’s and PFWA’s NFC Coach of the Year in 1974 … PFWA’s AFC Coach of the Year in 1979 … Led the Cardinals to the 1974 and 1975 NFC Eastern Division crowns … 1979-1981 San Diego Chargers earned AFC Western Division titles … Known for his “Air Coryell” offensive strategy that would lead the league in passing yardage seven times in nine seasons … Won 100 games coaching at both the collegiate (127-24-3) and professional (114-89-1) levels … Future Pro Football Hall of Fame coaches Joe Gibbs and John Madden served as college assistants under him … Member of the College Football Hall of Fame … served in the U.S. Army.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 45
Ht: 6-3, Wt: 228
NFL Career: 1958-59 Chicago Bears, 1961-1973 Dallas Cowboys
Seasons: 15, Games: 180
College: West Virginia
Drafted: 1st Round (7th Overall), 1958
Born: June 28, 1936, in Wheeling, W. Va.
Three-time All-Southern Conference selection and conference Player of the Year in 1957 at West Virginia … Selected seventh overall in the 1958 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears … Retired after two seasons following what was considered a career-ending knee injury during training camp in 1959 … Decided to make a comeback in 1961 after appearing in a West Virginia alumni game … Traded to Dallas prior to the 1961 season … Named MVP of Super Bowl V, making Howley the first defensive player and first non-quarterback to win the award … Holds the distinction of also being the only player from a losing team to be named MVP of the Super Bowl … Finished his career with 25 interceptions and two touchdowns … Named to six Pro Bowls (1966-70, 1972) … First-team All-Pro five times (1966-70) … Second team All-Pro in 1971 … Named to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 1977.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 30
Position: Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, Nose Tackle
Ht: 6-3, Wt: 263
NFL Career: 1977-1987 New York Jets, 1988 Indianapolis Colts
Seasons: 12, Games: 155
Drafted: 6th Round (144th Overall), 1977
Born: Oct. 15, 1953, in Chester, Pa.
Selected 144th overall in the 1977 NFL Draft by the New York Jets … Teamed with Abdul Salaam, Mark Gastineau and Marty Lyons to form one of the top defensive lines in the NFL, known as the “New York Sack Exchange.” … Named UPI NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1981, leading the league with 20.5 sacks … First-team All-Pro honors twice (1981, 1985) … Named to four Pro-Bowl teams (1981, 1983-85) … After moving to nose tackle during the 1985 season, Klecko became the second player in NFL history (after Hall of Famer Frank Gifford) to be selected to the Pro Bowl at three different positions … One of only five Jets to have his jersey number (#73) retired, along with Dennis Byrd and Hall of Famers Joe Namath, Don Maynard and Curtis Martin … Inducted into the Temple University Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 35
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 181
NFL Career: 1969-1983 Cincinnati Bengals
Seasons: 15, Games: 207
College: Florida A&M
Drafted: 6th Round (135th Overall), 1969
Born: Aug. 6, 1947, in Bartow, Fla.
Died: June 7, 2020, in Bartow, Fla.
Known by various nicknames – “The Rattler,” “Mr. Bengal” and “Mr. Consistency” … Selected by the Bengals in the 1969 AFL-NFL Draft after playing quarterback at Florida A&M … Converted to cornerback and played 15 NFL seasons over three decades (1969-1983) … Played in 207 NFL games, amassing 65 interceptions … Selected AP All-Pro in 1983 … Selected AP All-AFC in 1975, 1976 … Held or shared six Cincinnati team records through his final season with the Bengals … Led team in kickoff return yardage during his rookie season … Earned the AFC interception title in 1976, 1982, 1983 … Led the Bengals in interceptions seven times (1969, 1974-76, 1981-83) … Ranks fifth (tied with Charles Woodson) on the NFL’s career interceptions list … Described by Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown as “a model football player and a real gentleman. Youngsters would do well to pattern themselves after him.”
MODERN ERA CLASS OF 2023
HOF Finalist: 3 | Year of Eligibility: 6
Ht: 5-10, Wt: 186
NFL Career: 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Seasons: 16, Games: 241
Drafted: 3rd Round (66th overall), 1997
Born: April 7, 1975, in Montgomery County, Va.
Combined durability with productivity … Played in 241 regular-season games over 16 seasons …Started 215 consecutive regular-season games (224 counting postseason) … Finished career with 47 regular-season interceptions for 923 return yards and eight touchdowns — all Tampa Bay franchise records … Totaled 14 defensive and special teams touchdowns (8 INT, 4 FR and 2 on deflected punts) … Twice intercepted three passes in a game and six times forced at least two turnovers in a game … NFL’s all-time leader in sacks for cornerback … Only player in NFL history with a least 45 interceptions and 25 sacks … Three-time All-Pro … Selected to five Pro Bowls … Member of NFL’s AllDecade Team of the 2000s … Led NFL with 10 interceptions in 2001 … Led Buccaneers in interceptions six times … Voted team captain nine times … Buccaneers’ winner of Ed Block Courage Award in 2011 … Full name is Jamael Oronde Barber.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 1
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 198
NFL Career: 2007-2012 New York Jets, 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers,
2014 New England Patriots, 2015-16 New York Jets, 2017 Kansas City Chiefs
Seasons: 11, Games: 145
Drafted: 1st Round (14th Overall), 2007
Born: July 14, 1985, in Aliquippa, Pa.
Selected 14th overall in the first round 2007 of the NFL Draft by the New York Jets … Started at cornerback all 16 games for the Jets during his rookie season, earning him a spot on the PFWA AllRookie Team … Started at left cornerback for New England and had one sack and one solo tackle in the Patriots’ 28-24 win over Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX … First-team All-Pro honors four seasons (2009-2012) … Elected to participate in seven Pro Bowls (2009-2012, 2014-16) … Named to the NFL’s AllDecade Team of the 2010s … New York Jets’ team MVP in 2009 and 2011 … Finished his 11-year NFL career with 29 interceptions, with three returned for touchdowns, and 139 passes defensed. In 2009, led the NFL in passes defensed with 31 … Second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2009.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 1
Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht: 6-6, Wt: 312
NFL Career: 2007-2017 Cleveland Browns
Seasons: 11, Games: 167
Drafted: 1st Round (3rd Overall), 2007
Born: Dec. 4, 1984, in Brookfield, Wisc.
Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top interior lineman and a consensus All-American following his senior season at Wisconsin … Selected third overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns …Started at left tackle all 16 games for the Browns his rookie season, finishing second in AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting to Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson … Known for his agility, strength and durability, he played an NFL record 10,363 consecutive snaps – a streak that ended Oct. 22, 2017, after suffering a triceps tear against the Tennessee Titans … Allowed only 30 sacks in his remarkable career, despite facing several Hall of Fame sack specialists and many team’s top pass rushers … Was the first offensive lineman in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons …First-team All-Pro honors six seasons (2009-2011, 2013-15) and second-team All-Pro twice (2008, 2012) … Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s … Well-known for his involvement in the community, he was selected as the Cleveland Browns’ Walter Payton Man of the Year three times (2010, 2012, 2016).
HOF Finalist: 4 | Year of Eligibility: 10
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 235
NFL Career: 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys
Seasons: 13, Games: 184
College: Texas Tech
Drafted: 5th Round (154th Overall), 1996
Born: Sept. 1, 1973, in Pampa, Texas
Versatile and instinctive middle linebacker who made immediate impact … Intercepted three passes for 64 yards, one touchdown and 131 tackles, 49 assisted tackles and two sacks to earn team’s MVP honors and named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, 1996 … Led Dolphins in tackles 10 seasons … Racked up 100 tackles in each of his first 11 seasons … Amassed 22 tackles (14 solo) in 2001 playoff game versus Baltimore Ravens … Set Dolphins’ career record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns … Career statistics include 17 interceptions for 170 yards … Registered 20.5 career sacks … His 168 starts were most by a Dolphins’ defensive player … First player in team history to win Leadership Award (voted by teammates) three times … First-Team All-Pro five times (1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2006); Second-Team All-Pro twice (2001, 2005) … Voted to seven Pro Bowls.
HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 2
Position: Linebacker/Defensive End
Ht: 6-4, Wt: 258
NFL Career: 2005-2013 Dallas Cowboys, 2014-16 Denver Broncos
Seasons: 12, Games: 178
College: Troy State
Drafted: 1st Round (11th Overall), 2005
Born: July 31, 1982, in Auburn, Alabama
Entered the League in 2005 as an underdog with something to prove – started all 16 games at right outside linebacker and amassed 58 tackles and a team-best eight sacks … Led the Cowboys in sacks for eight seasons, 2005-2012 … Led the NFL with 20 sacks (2008) and 15.5 sacks (2010) … Played on only one team with a losing record during his career and helped lead his teams to five playoff appearances … Started at weakside linebacker in the Broncos’ Super Bowl 50 victory over the Carolina Panthers, amassing three solo tackles and two assists, two sacks and four hits on the quarterback … Career stats: 138.5 sacks, intercepted three passes for 44 return yards and one touchdown and also returned two fumbles for touchdowns … Still holds the Cowboys career sacks record with 117 … Voted first-team All-Pro four times (2007-09, 2011); second-team All-Pro three times (2006, 2010, 2012) … Selected to nine Pro Bowls (2007-2013, 2015-16) … Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Eliminated in cut from 10 to 5
HOF Finalist: 3 | Year of Eligibility: 3
Position: Defensive End
Ht: 6-6, Wt: 270
NFL Career: 2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings,
2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers
Seasons: 12, Games: 187
College: Idaho State
Drafted: 4th Round (126th Overall), 2004
Born: April 3, 1982, in Dallas, Texas
Buck Buchanan Award winner and Big Sky Conference Defensive Player of the Year out of Idaho State… Fourth-round draft pick (126th overall) by the Kansas City Chiefs … 12-year NFL career, started 181 of 187 career games … Member of the Carolina Panthers 2015 NFC Championship team … Started in Super Bowl 50; amassed one tackle and one QB hit … Led the NFL in sacks twice (2007, 2011) … 2007 Kansas City Chiefs Team MVP … NFL Alumni Player of the Year, 2009 … Career Stats: six interceptions, a fumble recovery for TD, 58 passes defensed and 136 sacks … Tied NFL record for career safeties, four … Five Pro Bowl nods (2008-2010, 2012-13) … Named First-Team All-Pro four times 2007-09, 2011.
HOF Finalist: 4 | Year of Eligibility: 9
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht: 6-0, Wt: 200
NFL Career: 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars
Seasons: 11, Games: 173
College: North Carolina State
Drafted: 1st Round (6th Overall), 1999
Born: June 5, 1976, in Greensboro, N.C.
Named team’s Rookie of the Year after catching 52 passes for 788 yards and 6 TDs to help Rams to Super Bowl title … Had 11 catches for 109 yards and a TD in Rams’ 23-16 victory over Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV … Eight consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons (2000-07) … Careerbest 117 catches for 1,696 yards and 12 TDs in 2003 …. Had 10 games with 100 or more yards in 2003 … Led NFL in receptions in 2003 and receiving yardage in 2000 and 2003 … Recorded 80 or more catches in a season eight consecutive years … Led Rams in receptions seven years in a row (2002-08) … Rams’ leading receiving yardage leader a record nine times … 920 career receptions for 13,382 yards and 74 TDs …. Named All-Pro in 2003 and to the second team in 2006 … All-NFC twice … Voted to seven Pro Bowls … Selected to NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 2
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht: 6-3, Wt: 229
NFL Career: 2003-2014 Houston Texans, 2015 Indianapolis Colts, 2016 Tennessee Titans
Seasons: 14, Games: 193
College: Miami (Florida)
Drafted: 1st Round (3rd Overall), 2003
Born: July 11, 1981, in Miami, Fla.
Surpassed 1,000 receiving yards seven times (2004, 2006, 2008-2010, 2012-13) … Led NFL in receptions twice (103 in 2006 and 115 in 2008) and in receiving yards twice (1,575 yards in 2008 and 1,569 yards in 2009) … One of only three players (Jerry Rice, Calvin Johnson) to lead NFL in receiving yards in consecutive seasons … Finished career with 1,062 receptions for 14,185 yards and 70 receiving touchdowns … Texans franchise leader in most receiving statistics … Caught five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown as Texans beat Cincinnati in first playoff appearance (2011); followed the next week with eight receptions for 111 yards in narrow loss to Ravens … Three career games with 200+ receiving yards … First-team All-Pro twice (2008-09) … Selected to seven Pro Bowls (2004, 2006, 2008-10, 2012-13) … Member of 2003 NFL All-Rookie Team … First player elected to Texans’ Ring of Honor (2017).
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 20
Ht: 6-2, Wt: 196
NFL Career: 1983-1993 Kansas City Chiefs, 1994-1998 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders
Seasons: 16, Games: 225
College: Grambling State
Drafted: 3rd Round (61st Overall), 1983
Born: Oct. 6, 1960, in Mansfield, La.
Immediate contributor to Kansas City Chiefs’ secondary with four interceptions as a rookie after collegiate career at Grambling State … Selected in third round of the 1983 NFL Draft (61st overall) …Established himself as starter entering second season and anchored left cornerback position for nearly the next decade … Picked off career-high eight passes in 1985 … Named team MVP in 1986 after totaling four interceptions and 69 tackles. … Helped Chiefs reached AFC Championship Game in final season in Kansas City (1993) with six interceptions in regular season … Played five seasons with Raiders, capping career in 1998 with lone pick-six of his career, a 74-yard return that gave him distinction as oldest player in NFL history (38 years, 26 days) to score a defensive touchdown … Career totals include 42 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, 12.5 sacks and an NFL-record 11 blocked punts.
HOF Finalist: 4 | Year of Eligibility: 4
Position: Wide Receiver
Ht: 6-0, Wt: 203
NFL Career: 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts
Seasons: 14, Games: 211
College: Miami (Florida)
Drafted: 1st Round (30th Overall), 2001
Born: Nov. 17, 1978, in New Orleans, Louisiana
Offensive threat who helped Colts reach postseason every year but two during his career … Caught 100 passes in a season four times (104 in 2007, 100 in 2009, 111 in 2010, and 106 in 2012) … Recorded 1,000 receiving yards eight times … Led NFL with career-high 1,510 receiving yards, 2007 …Had 10 or more catches in a game 15 times … Set franchise record with 15 receptions versus Jacksonville Jaguars on Oct. 3, 2010 … Racked up 100 yards in a game 43 times … Career stats: 1,070 catches for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns … Started three AFC Championship Games and two Super Bowls … Had two receptions for 61 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XLI victory … Retired as NFL’s second all-time leading receiver in postseason (93 catches) … First-Team All-Pro, 2010 … Second-Team All-Pro 2007, 2009 … Voted to six Pro Bowls over seven-year span.
Eliminated in cutdown from 15 to 10
HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 10
Position: Offensive Tackle
Ht: 6-5, Wt: 340
NFL Career: 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens
Seasons: 13, Games: 195
Drafted: 1st Round (10th Overall), 1996
Born: July 11, 1975 in Whistler, Ala.
Made an immediate impact as a rookie for the Bengals – named to the 1996 All-Rookie Team (PFWA)… Possessed not only the size a tackle needed to excel, but also the speed, strength and humility, allowing him to dominate at his position … Known as a strong run blocker and resilient pass blocker during the entirety of his 13-year tenure in the NFL … Considered an elite right tackle during his career and successfully held back such NFL sack leaders as Hall of Famers John Randle, Bruce Smith, Michael Strahan and Reggie White … Blocked for nine 1,000-yard rushers, as well as Corey Dillon’s two NFL record-breaking games: 246 yards for the rookie record and 278 yards for the all-time record that stood for nearly three years … Started in 184 of his 195 career games … First-team All-Pro honors from 2004-06; second-team All-Pro in 2003 … Received All-AFC recognition in 2005 and 2006 … Voted to four consecutive Pro Bowls – the 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 games … Received the Ed Block Courage Award in 2004.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 1
Position: Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
Ht: 6-1, Wt: 268
NFL Career: 2002-2012 Indianapolis Colts, 2013-14 San Diego Chargers,
2015 Arizona Cardinals, 2016 Atlanta Falcons, 2017 Seattle Seahawks, 2017 Detroit Lions
Seasons: 16, Games: 218
Drafted: 1st Round (11th Overall), 2002
Born: Feb. 19, 1980, in Hartford, Conn.
Drafted in first round (11th overall) in 2002 NFL Draft after leading the nation in sacks (17.5) his senior season at Syracuse … Named Co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year while earning All-American recognition … Ran a 4.38-second- 40 yard dash in pre-draft workouts … Selected to 2002 NFL AllRookie Team after recording 13 sacks and 20 tackles for loss … Seven Pro Bowl selections (2004-06, 2009-2012) … AP first-team All-Pro in 2004, 2005 and 2009; second-team All-Pro in 2003 … Named All-AFC by PFWA 2003-05 and 2009-2010 … Secured NFL Sack Title with 16 in 2004 … Member of the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI championship team and played in two additional Super Bowls (XLIV, LI) … Played in 218 regular-season games over 16 seasons in NFL … Career stat totals: 125.5 sacks, 148 quarterback hits and 128 tackles for loss … Credited with 47 forced fumbles (tied for fourth on the NFL’s all-time list) and forced three fumbles in a game on two occasions.
HOF Finalist: 2 | Year of Eligibility: 2
Position: Punt Returner/Kick Returner/Wide Receiver
Ht: 5-11, Wt: 190
NFL Career: 2006-2013 Chicago Bears, 2014-15 Atlanta Falcons, 2016 Baltimore Ravens
Seasons: 11, Games: 156
College: Miami (Florida)
Drafted: 2nd Round (57th Overall), 2006
Born: Nov. 4, 1982, in Riviera Beach, Fla.
Multi-dimensional player who joined Bears after college career as offensive, defensive and special teams threat … Became immediate standout as return specialist, earning spot on 2006 NFL All-Rookie Team … In debut season, returned 47 punts for 600 yards (both NFL highs) and three TDs, along with 20 kickoffs for 528 yards and two touchdowns … Also returned a missed field goal that season for a 108-yard touchdown – one of only five such “kick-six” scores in an NFL game. … Opened Super Bowl XLI with 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the only time in Super Bowl history that has occurred … In second NFL season, returned four kickoffs and two punts for scores, establishing an NFL record for six combined kick returns for TDs … First-team All-Pro three times (2006-07, 2010) … Member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s … One of two return specialists on the NFL 100 All-Time Team.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 4
Ht: 6-1, Wt: 242
NFL Career: 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers
Seasons: 8, Games: 112
Drafted: 1st Round (11th Overall), 2007
Born: January 25, 1985, in Bruceton, Tennessee
Immediate starter for 49ers after joining team as 11th overall selection in 2007 NFL Draft … Totaled 174 tackles, four sacks, seven QB hits and eight tackles for loss in earning 2007 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year Award … Named first-team All-Pro five times in eight NFL seasons (2007, 2009, 2010-12) … Selected to Pro Bowl following seven consecutive seasons (2007-2013) … Won NFL’s version of the Butkus Award (then in its second year) in 2009, following his best season statistically overall: 152 tackles, four sacks, three forced fumbles, eight pass deflections and career-bests of three interceptions and 13 tackles for loss … Won the Bill Walsh Award in 2009 as the 49ers’ most valuable player …Contributed 10 tackles in Super Bowl XLVII loss to Baltimore Ravens … Career stats include 20.5 sacks, 60 tackles for loss, eight interceptions and 16 forced fumbles. … Named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s.
HOF Finalist: 1 | Year of Eligibility: 15
Ht: 6-1, Wt: 219
NFL Career: 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys
Seasons: 12, Games: 178
College: Arizona State
Drafted: 2nd Round (37th Overall), 1992
Born: April 25, 1969, in Phoenix, Ariz.
Selected in the second round, 37th overall, of the 1992 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys with a pick obtained as part of the Herschel Walker trade … Earned a spot on the 1992 PFWA All-Rookie Team, appearing in all 19 games for the World Champion Cowboys … A member of three Super Bowl championship teams with Dallas (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) … Ended his playing career as the Cowboys’ all-
time leader in tackles with 1,350 … First-team All-Pro honors four seasons (1994-96, 1998) … Chosen to participate in five Pro Bowls (1994-98) … Elected to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor in 2015 …Finished his 12-year NFL career with 26 interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns … Winner of the 2002 Bart Starr Award, given annually to the NFL player who serves as a positive role model to his family, teammates and community … Finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2003.