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Pro Football Hall of Fame Welcomes Worthy Class

Posted on February 02, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Andre Reed finally received the "call from the hall" in his eighth year as a finalist.

Andre Reed finally received the “call from the hall” in his eighth year as a finalist.

For the fourth time in the last five years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will add a maximum class of seven following the announcement last night of the 2014 class for induction.

Though some will question a couple of the selections, in total it is pretty impressive group that will be honored in Canton later this year.

Included are first year eligible players Derrick Brooks and Walter Jones along with wide receiver Andre Reed and defensive players Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams. Also selected as senior-era selections were Claude Humphrey and Ray Guy.

While I think there was no debating the worthiness of both Brooks and Jones, who ironically are both products of Florida State, but am a little surprised that Jones made the cut during his first year of eligibility.

Though he didn’t always receive the same publicity as his defensive teammates in Tampa Bay Warren Sapp, John Lynch and Ronde Barber, Brooks was the consistent star of that unit. An 11-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first team All-Pro, Brooks was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002 when the Buccaneers won their only Super Bowl.

There is no question that Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and four-time All-Pro pick, has Hall of Fame credentials. However, with some other very talented players up for consideration (including 12-time Pro Bowl guard Will Shields), I wasn’t sure the voters would put Jones into the Hall in his first try.

Two players who also had Hall of Fame worthy careers, but who had to wait before receiving the call were Reed and Williams.

The Hall of Fame voters have always struggled with how to handle the wide receiver position. Reed is the 12th receiver since 1995 to be selected for the HOF, but only Jerry Rice and Steve Largent made it in their first year on the ballot. It took Reed eight times as a finalist before making the cut. Many believe that in the committee pecking order they had to get Cris Carter (who was selected last year in his sixth year of eligibility) into the HOF before Reed could make it in. The road is now clearer for Tim Brown, who has been a finalist five times, and Marvin Harrison, who was a finalist in his first year on the ballot, to be the next receivers in.

Many experts are saying that the selection of Williams was somewhat of a surprise, but I find that a bit foolish. Until moving to St. Louis where he played in a Super Bowl with the Rams, Williams spent a decade in Arizona where he was always in the conversation for best defensive back in the league, but often was overshadowed by more glamorous players of his era. Despite rarely playing for a winning team, Williams was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time first team All-Pro. His 55 career interceptions are the 20th most of all-time and rank sixth among those who played most of their career since 1990.

Of the modern era picks, the one I struggle the most with his Michael Strahan. While he was a very good player and has credentials that would seem to one-day justify selection into the Hall of Fame, I struggle with him leap-frogging Charles Haley and Kevin Greene for a spot in the Hall. You have to wonder if Strahan’s status as a popular television personality while both Haley and Greene are not as charismatic had an impact on why he will receive his bust this year and Haley and Greene must wait another year.

Claude Humphrey was a dominating defender for the Atlanta Falcons.

Claude Humphrey was a dominating defender for the Atlanta Falcons.

Because the Hall of Fame voters between 1988 and 2009 did a very poor job of keeping up with selecting worthy candidates, there has been quite a backlog of Hall of Fame deserving players who are still waiting for the call from the hall.

Two of those who were regularly considered in past years, but had never made the cut were former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Claude Humphrey and long-time Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders punter Ray Guy.

Thankfully, both players received the needed support this time around to make it into the Hall of Fame.

It is especially sweet for Guy, who becomes the first pure punter ever selected for the Hall of Fame. I don’t think his induction will lead to an onslaught of punters knocking on the HOF, but Guy’s booming kicks changed how the position was looked at and the seven-time Pro Bowler is well deserving of his status as a Hall of Famer.

Humphrey was a talented pass rusher in the 1960s and 1970s and though sacks were not an official statistic during his career, he is credited with an impressive total of 122 during his career while earning Pro Bowl honors six times and first-team All-Pro selection five times. Though the Falcons were not a great team in the 1970s, Humphrey and Tommy Nobis, who is another all-time great still waiting for the call from Canton, helped anchor an Atlanta defense that was often the best part of the team.

There is still quite a backlog of players from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but unfortunately because the current system allows only two players who have been out of the league 25 years or more to be considered annually, it will be a while before that glut is rectified.

With Kurt Warner, Junior Seau and Orlando Pace all eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2015, the selection process (and debate around the picks) promises to again be interesting. Seau seems to be a lock, and if Jones can get in on the first ballot that would seem to bode well for Pace. Warner will be an interesting case because he had some very Hall of Fame worthy seasons, but did he have enough of them to warrant first-time selection.

Oh well, only time will tell. For now, we can enjoy a talented Hall of Fame Class of 2014.

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