And the Nominees Are…

On February 3rd, 2018, 18 finalists will look to join one of the most exclusive clubs known to man, the National Football League Hall of Fame.  Over 23,000 athletes have come through the NFL, and only 310 have been enshrined in Canton, Ohio.  That’s just over one percent.  Last year, there were 15 finalists, seven of them were selected.  Of the eight who didn’t make it, only Don Coryell, innovator of the vertical offense, was passed on when it came to selecting the 2018 HOF finalists.  The late Coryell may not be making the HOF just yet, but the three receivers among the finalists this year just may have him to thank.

To be a modern-day finalist a player must have already been retired for a minimum of five years, whereas senior finalists have been retired for at least 25.  Contributor finalists are individuals recognized for their contribution to the game in ways other than playing or coaching.  Regardless of the category, finalists must receive an 80% approval rating from the 48-person selection committee to be inducted to the Hall of Fame.

The Modern-Day finalists are:

Tony Boselli (Tackle, 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars) – Born on April 17th, 1972 in Modesto, California. Tony was selected second overall out of the University of Southern California in the 1995 NFL draft by the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars where he played 91 career games through 2001.  He made an immediate impact in his first year, earning All-Rookie honors, and was the heart and soul of an offensive line that helped forge the Jaguars to four straight playoff appearances (1996-99).  Tony was selected to five straight Pro Bowls (1997-2001), was named first team All-Pro in three consecutive seasons, and is a member of the NFL’s 1990’s All-Decade team.  Not bad for a guy that played in only half of the decade, right?  This is Boselli’s 12th year of eligibility and his second appearance as a HOF finalist.  Had his career not been cut short by injury, he undoubtedly would have been a first ballot Hall of Famer.  Should Boselli be elected, he would be the first Jaguar ever enshrined.


Isaac Bruce (Wide Receiver, 1994-2007 L.A. /St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers) – Born on November 10th, 1972 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  After being overlooked by the nation’s top universities, Bruce wound up at West Los Angeles College, followed by Santa Monica College.  From there, he made his way to the University of Memphis in 1992.  The Los Angeles Rams selected Bruce 33rd overall (2nd round) in the 1994 NFL Draft.  While his first ever reception went for a 34-yard score, his breakout didn’t happen until his second season where he hauled in 119 receptions for a whopping 1,781 yards and 13 touchdowns – career-highs in all three categories.  Bruce was a key member of the “Greatest Show on Turf”, started in two Super Bowls, and had the game winning 73-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl 34.  He was selected to four Pro-Bowls (1997, 2000, 2001, 2002) and was named All-Pro in 1999.  He was the first ever receiver with three straight games of at least 170 yards receiving.  Bruce currently ranks fifth all-time in receiving yards and is the Rams all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and yards from scrimmage.  He played in 223 career games, 16 of which came as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in the final two years of his career.  This is Isaac’s fourth year of HOF eligibility, and second appearance as a finalist.


Brian Dawkins (Safety, 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos) – Born October 13th, 1973 in Jacksonville, Florida.  Dawkins was drafted in the second round (61st overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1996 NFL draft out of Clemson University.  He was the pulse on a defense that helped Philly make eight playoff appearances, including four NFC championship games, and one Super Bowl.  The nine-time Pro Bowler was All-Pro five times (2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2009).  As a member of the 2000’s All-Decade team, Brian was the first player in NFL history to record a sack, interception, fumble recovery, and a touchdown reception in the same game.  He registered at least one interception for 15 straight season and scored three defensive touchdowns.  Dawkins played in 224 career games, 183 with Philly (most all-time for an Eagle).  This is Dawkins second year of HOF eligibility and also his second year as a finalist.

Alan Faneca (Guard, 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals) – Born December 7th, 1976 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Faneca was drafted in the first round (26th overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1998 NFL Draft out of Louisiana State University.  In his 13 season career, spanning 206 games, he only missed one game.  Faneca’s teams finished top 10 in rushing 11 times in his 13 seasons while paving the way for nine 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000 yard passers.  His immediate impact earned him All-Rookie accolades.  As a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, Faneca was named to nine straight Pro Bowls, was a six time All-Pro (2001-02, 2004-07), a Second-Team All-Pro in 2003 and 2008.  He was All-AFC seven straight seasons and is a Super Bowl champion.  This is Faneca’s third year of HOF eligibility and his third straight year as a finalist.



Steve Hutchinson (Guard, 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans) – Born in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on November 1st, 1977.  As a first-round pick (17th overall) in the 2001 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan, Hutchinson was a lead blocker for Shaun Alexanders 1,880 yard MVP season.  He signed with Minnesota in 2006 and created running lanes that allowed Adrian Peterson to rush for 1,760 in 2008.  As a member of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, Hutchinson was a seven-time Pro Bowler, named All-Pro six times, and was chosen as NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year twice (2006, 2009).  This is Hutchinson’s first year as a HOF finalist.



Joe Jacoby (Tackle, 1981-1993 Washington Redskins) – Born July 6th, 1959 in Louisville, Kentucky.  He went undrafted.  Let me repeat…UNDRAFTED.  In a career that consisted of 170 games over 13 seasons, Jacoby played numerous positions on the offensive line but made his biggest impact at left tackle.  He was a member of “The Hogs”, a nickname given to the Washington Redskins offensive line in the 1980’s who are credited for being one of the main reasons the Redskins appeared in four Super Bowls, winning three of them (XVII, XXII, XXVI).  Jacoby was named All-Pro three times (1983-84, 1987), All-NFC twice (1983-84), Second-Team All-NFC twice (1985-86), and was voted to four straight Pro Bowls.  Joe is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1980’s.  This is his 20th year of HOF eligibility and his third straight year as a finalist.


Edgerrin James (RB, 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks) – Born August 1st, 1978 in Immokalee, Florida.  James was selected in the first round (4th overall) of the 1999 NFL draft out of “The U” (University of Miami).  His immediate impact allowed him to win Rookie of the Year and the NFL rushing title in his first two seasons.  He was a part of five division titles, four with Indy and one with Arizona.  Edge eclipsed 1,000 yards in seven of his 11 seasons, and 1,500 yards four times.  As a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, James was All-Pro three times (1999-2000, 2004), All-AFC four times (1999-2000, 2004-05), and was selected to four Pro Bowls.  When he joined the Cardinals he was their first 1,000-yard rusher in eight seasons and helped them reach Super Bowl XLIII in 2008.  This is his fourth year of HOF eligibility and his second year as a finalist (2016, 2018).


Ty Law (Cornerback, 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005 and 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos) – Born February 10th, 1974 in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.  First round draft pick (23rd overall) out of the University of Michigan.  In his 203 career games over 15 seasons, Ty led the NFL in interceptions twice (9 in 1998, and a career-high 10 in 2005 with the Jets).  He was a starting corner in three Super Bowls and four AFC Championship games.  His 47-yard pick six in Super Bowl XXXVI is regarded by many as the spark that jump started the Patriots dynasty that still exists today.  As a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, Law had 53 interceptions, seven of which were returned for touchdowns.  This is his fourth year of HOF eligibility and his second straight year as a finalist.


Ray Lewis (Linebacker, 1996 -2012 Baltimore Ravens) – Born May 15th, 1975 in Bartow, Florida.  He was the expansion Baltimore Ravens very first draft pick in 1996 (1st round, 26th pick) out of “The U” (University of Miami).  Regarded as one of the most ferocious linebackers of all time, Lewis played in 228 games over 17 seasons.  During that time he started at middle linebacker in four AFC Championship games and two Super Bowls (2000, 2013), winning both and earning MVP of Super Bowl XXV.  He was the second player in NFL history to win Defensive MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same season.  As a part of the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, Lewis was an eight-time All-Pro and a 12-time Pro Bowler.  He was the first player in NFL history with 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in a career.  He also recorded 20 fumbles.  This is his first year of HOF eligibility and he would join Jonathan Ogden as the only other Raven in the HOF.


John Lynch (Safety, 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos) – Born September 25th, 1971 in Hinsdale, Illinois.  Lynch was drafted by the Bucs in the 3rd round (82nd overall) in the 1993 NFL Draft out of Stanford University.  One of the NFL’s hardest hitting safeties played in 224 games over 15 seasons.  The three-time All-Pro (1999-2001) was selected for nine Pro Bowls and was an integral part of a world class defense that consistently ranked among the NFL’s best – and eventually a Super Bowl championship (XXXVII).  John signed as a free agent with Denver in 2004 where he played his final four seasons.  In his second season as a Bronco he helped lead Denver to the conference championship game.  When it was all said and done Lynch would account for 26 interceptions, 13 sacks, and more than 1,000 tackles.  This is his sixth year of HOF eligibility and his fifth straight year as a finalist.


Kevin Mawae (Center, 1994 – 97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans) – Born January 23rd, 1971 in Savannah, Georgia.  Mawae was drafted by the Seahawks in the second round (36th overall) of the 1994 NFL Draft out of Louisiana State University.  He made the All-Rookie team as a guard, where he played his first two seasons before switching to center for the remainder of his career.  As a member of the All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, he blocked for 1,000-yard rushers in 13 of his 16 seasons, one of which was a 2,000-yard rusher (Chris Johnson) in Tennessee.  The six-time All-Pro was voted to eight Pro-Bowls.  This is his fourth year of HOF eligibility and his second straight year as a finalist.


Randy Moss (Wide Receiver, 1998-2004 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers) – Born February 13th, 1977 in Rand, West Virginia.  He was the Vikings first round pick (21st overall) in the 1998 NFL Draft out of Marshall University.  His 69 catches for over 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns allowed him to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.  In 2003 he had a career-best 111 receptions for 1,632 yards.  Randy was a member of the 2007 Patriots team that nearly went undefeated.  That same year he broke the record for most receiving touchdowns in a year with 23.  His 15,292 career receiving yards is best for fourth all-time, and his 156 receiving touchdowns is good for second all-time, trailing only the great Jerry Rice.  The four-time All-Pro was voted to six Pro Bowls and is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s.  This is Randy’s first year of HOF eligibility.


Terrell Owens (Wide Receiver, 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals) – Born December 7th, 1973 in Alexander City, Alabama.  The 49ers used their third round draft pick (89th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft to select Owens out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  As a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000’s, the five-time All-Pro was also selected to six Pro Bowls, and was All-NFC four times.  In December of 2000, he hauled in a then record 20 receptions in one game.  His 16 season, 219 game career allowed him to rack up 1,078 receptions (8th all-time) for 15,934 yards (second all-time) and 153 touchdowns (3rd all-time).  Terrell was a member of the 2004 Eagles Super Bowl team.  When an injury threatened to sideline him for the Super Bowl, Owen’s grit and desire to win moved him to sign a medical waiver to be allowed to play.  This is his third year of HOF eligibility and his third year as a finalist.


Brian Urlacher (Linebacker, 2000-2012 Chicago Bears) – Born May 25th, 1978 in Pasco, Washington.  Urlacher was selected in the first round (9th overall) of the 2000 NFL draft by the Bears out of the University of New Mexico.  He lived up to the hype of a top 10 pick earning Defensive Rookie of the Year in the 2000 season.  In 2005 he was named Defensive Player of the Year as the captain of a defense that allowed the fewest points in the season while recording 171 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and six sacks.  The Bears all-time leading tackler was an All-Pro five times, voted to eight Pro Bowls, and named to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000’s.  He had 41.5 career sacks to go along with 22 interceptions and five touchdowns.  This is Urlacher’s first year of HOF eligibility.


Everson Walls (Cornerback, 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns) – Born December 28th, 1959 in Dallas, Texas.  Just like Jacoby, Walls was an undrafted free.  He signed with the Cowboys in 1981 and had a phenomenal rookie season with 11 interceptions, 83 tackles, and one fumble recovery – all which allowed him to be named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team.  He led the NFL in interceptions again in his sophomore season – and once again in 2005.  Walls was voted to the Cowboys’ 25th Anniversary All-Time Team.  When he signed with the Giants in 1990, he led the team with six interceptions and played a major role in helping the team win Super Bowl (XXV).  The three-time All-Pro was voted to four Pro Bowls and finished his career with 57 interceptions, returning one of them for a touchdown.  This is his 20th year of HOF eligibility and his first as a finalist.

Senior Finalists:

Robert Brazile (Linebacker, 1975-1984 Houston Oilers) – Born February 7th, 1953 in Mobile, Alabama.  Brazile’s 10 year career (147 games) started in, and would never leave Houston, as the Oilers drafted him with their first round pick (6th overall), in the 1975 NFL Draft out of Jackson State University.  The Defensive Rookie of the Year went on to play a team-record of 147 straight games.  As a member of the 1970’s All-Decade Team he was selected as an All-Pro five straight years (1976-1980), and voted to seven Pro Bowls.  He was the starting outside linebacker in back to back AFC Championship games and finished his career with 13 interceptions, and 11 sacks.  This is Robert’s 29th year of HOF eligibility and his first as a finalist.


Jerry Kramer (Guard, 1958-1968 Green Bay Packers) – Born January 23rd, 1936 in Jordan, Montana.  The Packers used their third round pick (39th overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft to select Kramer out of the University of Idaho.  He was the anchor of the offensive line during the Lombardi-era.  He was All-NFL five times, selected to three Pro Bowls, named to NFL’s 50th Anniversary Team, NFL All-Decade Team of the 1960’s, and the Super Bowl Silver Anniversary Team.  Kramer played a vital role in allowing the Packers to win Super Bowls I and II and will always be known for making a key block that allowed Bart Starr to score the game winning touchdown in the “Ice Bowl”.  Kramer was also the placekicker in 1962-63 and again briefly in his final season.  This is his 45th year of HOF eligibility and his 11th time as a finalist.

Contributor Finalist:

Bobby Beathard (General Manager/Personnel Administrator, 1966-67 Kansas City Chiefs, 1968-1971 Atlanta Falcons, 1972-77 Miami Dolphins, 1978-1988 Washington Redskins, 1990-99 San Diego Chargers) – Born January 24, 1937 in Zanesville, Ohio.  In 1972, he was named director of player personnel for the Miami Dolphins.  They won the Super Bowl the following two seasons and the 72 Dolphins are to this day the only team to go undefeated through the Super Bowl.  He was hired by the Washington Redskins in 1978 and went on to win the Super Bowl in 1982 with a team comprised of 27 free-agents signed during his tenure.  Bobby was hired as the GM of the San Diego Chargers in 1990 and made a Super Bowl appearance in just his third season.  Beathard had a 33-year career that saw seven Super Bowl appearances, winning four of them.  This is his first year as a HOF finalist.

“Selection Saturday” will occur the day before the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles square off in Super Bowl 52.  While all 18 nominees would be worthy of induction, fans can expect anywhere from four to seven members to get the nod.  For those that don’t make it, the road to the Hall doesn’t end here.  89.4% of finalists are eventually inducted.

To all the legends this weekend, good luck.

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