Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011: Sanders, Faulk Headline First-year Eligibles

In August 2011, the NFL preseason will be kicked off with the induction of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's newest members, just like every other season.
As announced the Saturday before Super Bowl XLV was played, there will be seven members enshrined in to Canton that afternoon. Among the seven are two first-year eligibles, Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk, both very well-deserving.
Here's my breakdown of all seven soon-to-be HOFers and even a couple of guys who were snubbed this year and will likely be enshrined in 2012.

Snubs: Bettis, Brown, Carter, Reed among others

With a very deep core of receivers and running backs who are eligible for entry into the Hall and only so many that are chosen each year, of course there are going to be well-deserving players left off that final ballot. Jerome Bettis (fifth all-time leading rusher), Tim Brown (fourth all-time leading receiver) and Cris Carter (eighth all-time leading receiver) were among the many that didn't receive the nod from voters.
Others include receiver Andre Reed, offensive tackle Willie Roaf, center Dermontti Dawson and defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy among others.
I would expect to see Tim Brown and Curtis Martin get the spotlight, and if not Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, then 2013 will certainly be his year to put on the tan jacket. August 2011, the NFL preseason will be kicked off with the induction of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's newest members, just like every other season.


Richard Dent, DE

The 15-year veteran defensive end finished his prolonged career with 137.5 sacks, currently tied with fellow Hall of Fame defensive end John Randle for sixth all-time. Dent, playing in Chicago for 12 seasons, played on the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl championship team and was a key component in what is known as the Monsters of the Midway (Chicago's fierce defense). In fact, Dent was named the game's Most Valuable Player with 1.5 sacks.
The four-time Pro Bowler captured his second of two Super Bowl rings as a 49er in 1994, despite recording two sacks in two games that season. A year later Dent returned to Chicago before finishing his career with the Colts (1996) and Eagles (1997).
Dent's sack total, and role on Mike Ditka's Chicago defense in the 1980s, are the two big reasons why the voters decided Dent deserved the shot at becoming immortal in Canton, OH.

Marshall Faulk, RB
Faulk is best-known for being an important factor in the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf" and winning Super Bowl XXXIV alongside future Hall of Famers Kurt Warner, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce.
After putting up nearly 1,400 yards and leading the league with 18 rushing touchdowns in 2000, Faulk won the league MVP award, and was selected to one of his seven career Pro Bowls.
Faulk will go down in history as one of the best dual-threat running backs. He is currently 10th on the all-time rushing yards list (12,279) and has the most career receiving yards among running backs (6,875). When you combine his 100 rushing touchdowns and 36 receiving touchdowns he cracks the top five in overall touchdowns--rushing and receiving combined.
If you need any more evidence that Faulk is by far the best receiving running back of all-time, then just look at his yards/reception: 9.0 yards. If you throw Faulk the ball every play, you will score rather quickly as Kurt Warner learned throughout his time with Faulk.

Chris Hanburger, LB
Standing alongside the other inductees during the ceremony the 69-year former Redskins linebacker will likely look like an antique. But, nonetheless, the nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All Pro has finally gotten his call.
Hanburger has only been waiting since his retirement in 1978. He's so old that there isn't even any record of his tackle and sack totals throughout his 14-year career in Washington. But, he did pick off 19 passes and earn the nickname "hangman" because of his ferocious tackling.
Hanburger was named the Skins' defensive captain and started 135 consecutive games early on in his career. Hanburger was known as a nitty-gritty, hard-hitting linebacker with the Redskins. And though he didn't win any Super Bowls, this selection has been a long time coming.

Les Richter, G/LB/K
Unfortunately Richter, a guard, linebacker and kicker for the L.A. Rams, didn't live to see himself inducted in to the Hall as he passed away this past summer at the age of 79.
Richter, elected to eight Pro Bowls in his nine-year career, may have only made a little over half of his field goal attempts (52.7%, to be exact), but Richter picked off 16 passes and recovered 12 fumbles at the middle linebacker position in the 1950s and early '60s.
Richter and Hanburger were both selected as Senior candidate for the Hall.

Ed Sabol, NFL Films
With the NFL Network basically being powered by NFL Films, which was co-founded by the 94-year old Sabol in 1962 (then known as Blair Motion Productions), of course Sabol deserves some credit. His son, Steve, 68, was the other co-founder of the project and has since become known as the face of the company.
The NFL Films changed the game, and fans, forever. More and more games started to be broadcasted and NFL Films allowed fans to feel as though they are in the middle of the action.
Sabol, retired from the company since 1995, has been elected as a contributor to NFL Films.

Deion Sanders, CB/Return specialist
Perhaps the biggest name of the draft class, the enshrinement of "Prime Time" was inevitable. In his first year eligible, there was no way the flashy Sanders was going to be denied entrance in to Canton.
There's no question that Deion is the most well-known figure of his era, and not only was he a spectacular athlete, but he also entertained fans with his antics, and signature end zone dance. Which I'm not real sure how to explain other than mentioning that it's his own way of "high-stepping" in to the end zone.
His signature bandannas and flashy fashion statements helped him attract fans, and then it was his speed and elusiveness on the football field which had fans coming back for more. His nine combined kick/punt return touchdowns, and nine interception return touchdowns gave him the play-maker title. While playing corner, the eight-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champ intercepted 53 career passes (tied with Ty Law for 23rd all-time) and made a name for himself as a coverage back in his 13 career seasons.

Shannon Sharpe, TE
Last but not least, one of the most successful tight ends in league history. When it comes to Super Bowl rings, at least.
In 14 professional seasons (12 in Denver, two in Baltimore), Sharpe won three Super Bowl titles and was elected to eight Pro Bowls while proving to his critics that he belongs in the "best tight end of all-time" debate. Now I'm not necessarily saying he is the best-ever TE--that's a whole different topic up for debate--but his 815 career receptions (most among TE's) will surely give him a strong argument.
With over 10,000 yards and 62 receiving touchdowns, Sharpe certainly made his presence felt against opposing defenses. He had Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway throwing him passes in Denver, but in Baltimore the best he had was Tony Banks and Trent Dilfer for two seasons.

2012 First-year Eligibles:
Curtis Martin: 14,101 yards, 90 rushing TDs, 4.0 yards/carry in 11 NFL seasons
Tiki Barber: 10,449 yards, 55 rushing TDs, 4.7 yards/carry in 10 NFL seasons
My take: Martin, the fourth all-time leading rusher is bound to get the nod, despite the heavy load of eligible position players. As for Barber? If, and I mean if, he gets in it will not be for a couple of more years. It's possible he gets voted in, but it would have to be once the likes of Martin, Bettis, Brown, Carter and Reed (all skilled position players) get in.

Photo Credit
Marshall Faulk: sportsillustrated.com
Deion Sanders: faniq.com

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