Saturday, August 6, 2011

Seven More to be Enshrined in to Football Immortality Tonight

Today is a good day.

Another year, another class of former football players enter the football afterlife, A.K.A. the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio–also signals the official start to the season.

This year there will be seven new members of the Hall of Fame (induction ceremonies set to begin on ESPN at 7 P.M. E.T.; if you watch NFL Network they will be airing a Hall of Fame Pre-Enshrinement Ceremony at 4 P.M. E.T.).

The 2011 class is highlighted by a few modern-day players such as Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and Marshall Faulk. Chicago Bears defensive end Richard Dent, Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger, Los Angeles Rams linebacker Les Richter and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol are the other four to put on the yellow jacket tonight.

Despite the canceling of the annual Hall of Fame game (as a result of the lockout), which would have been played Sunday night, this weekends festivities should be a lot of fun. In honor of tonight's enshrinement, I have put together a little tribute to each inductee's career, as seen below:

Marshall Faulk; Colts, Rams running back 1994-2005
-Seven Pro Bowls, three-time First Team All Pro, Super Bowl Champion (two appearances)
-12,279 rushing yards, 100 TDs; 767 receptions, 6,875 yards, 36 TDs
-Fourth on all-time yards from scrimmage list (19,154)

Faulk, selected second overall in the 1994 draft behind Cincinnati's Dan Wilkinson, was the key piece in St. Louis' Greatest Show on Turf in the late '90s to early '00s. With quarterback Kurt Warner and receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, Faulk's Rams won the 1999 Super Bowl and fell just short of capturing a second after falling to New England in 2001.

Marshall is by far the best dual threat running back in league history. Faulk's 767 receptions are most all-time among running backs (Larry Centers finished his career with 827, but he played fullback).
Deion Sanders; Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens cornerback/returner 1989-2005
-Eight Pro Bowls, eight-time All Pro, Two-time Super Bowl champ
-492 tackles, 53 interceptions, 10 FF, 6 PR TD/3 KR TD
-T-4th all-time on INT return TDs (9)

Sanders, A.K.A. "Primetime," revolutionized the way defensive backs covered receivers. His critics bashed him because he wasn't the best tackler, but he was just as physical on the line as anyone else out there.

Fans loved him because of his flashiness and trash-talk on the field, but he never failed to back up that talk when it came to making plays. He was the most electrifying player to watch in his time, and was still exciting to watch when he finished his career with two seasons in Baltimore at age 38.

Shannon Sharpe; Broncos, Ravens tight end 1990-2003
-Eight Pro Bowls, four-time First Team All Pro, Three-time Super Bowl champ
-815 career receptions, 62 receiving touchdowns
-Three seasons with 1,000+ receiving yards

Before Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez came around and surpassed him, Sharpe was the league's greatest receiving tight end in terms of numbers (815 receptions, 10,060 yards, 62 touchdowns). After ending his first of two stints with the Broncos, Sharpe left for Baltimore where he put up two solid receiving seasons en route to his third Super Bowl ring in 2000.

After two years of waiting, Sharpe has finally received his "Call to the Hall," becoming the eighth modern-era tight end to be enshrined.
Richard Dent, Bears, 49ers, Colts, Eagles defensive end 1983-1997
-Four Pro Bowls, Five-time All Pro (one First-Team), Two-time Super Bowl champ
-671 tackles, 137.5 sacks, 37 FF
-Super Bowl XX MVP

Dent is the most underrated inductee in this year's class, in my opinion. People seem to forget that he was a part of one of the toughest defenses in NFL history (1985 Chicago Bears), and that he was the MVP of the Super Bowl that season after recording 1.5 sacks against the Patriots.

Dent, t-sixth on the all-time sack list (with HOFer John Randle), came up with sacks in big games, recording 10.5 sacks in six career playoff games with the Bears (Chicago was 4-2 in those games). Dent was a Hall of Fame finalist for six years before finally getting the call this year. Congrats, Dent.

Ed Sabol, 94 years old
-Founder of NFL Films

Without the company he founded, NFL Films, there is no way we would have the amount of NFL content, and quality of the content, in terms of photographs and footage of the game. In fact, the NFL Network may not have even existed without Sabol, considering NFL Films produces a majority of the commericals, features and films for the Network.

There's no doubt that Sabol's company revolutionized the way the NFL has been covered over the last few decades. Kudos to you, Mr. Sabol. Good to see you inducted before you kick the bucket.

Chris Hanburger; Redskins linebacker 1965-1978 (*Senior Candidate*)
-Nine Pro Bowls, four-time First Team All Pro
-19 INTs, 17 FR in 149 career starts
-Selected by WAS in 18th and final round of 1965 draft

Hanburger played back in the day before tackles and sacks were recorded, but that does not take away from his resume. His nine Pro Bowl appearances are a Redskins franchise record, and he was the team's defensive "quarterback" in the '70s, acting as team leader and navigating his teammates on the field.

Hanburger's career was well over and done with before I was born, but from the looks of it, Hanburger was well respected by his peers (HOFer John Hannah referred to him as "the smartest player in the league at the time" according to Redskins Encyclopedia). As one of the 70 greatest Redskins, this election was well-deserved on Hanburger's part.
Les Richter; Rams linebacker/guard/kicker 1954-1962 (*Senior Candidate*)
-Eight Pro Bowls, two-time First Team All Pro, three-time Second Team All Pro
-16 INT, 12 FR, 193 career points, 52.7 FG%
-Second overall pick in 1952 NFL Draft

Richter played long before Hanburger and, just like Hanburger, Richter played his entire career–nine seasons–with the same team after being traded to the Rams by the Dallas Texans. In Los Angeles, Richter was one of those players who could play multiple positions (most players in this era did this actually), and made the Pro Bowl in all but one of his seasons.

Richter made his mark at the linebacker position, primarily, making four of his eight Pro Bowlers as LA's middle linebacker from 1958-1961.

**All photos found on Google, no copyright infringement intended**

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