Seau, Bettis lead 2015 Hall of Fame class
PHOENIX -- Late linebacker Junior Seau, offensive guard Will Shields, defensive end Charles Haley, wide receiver Tim Brown and running back Jerome Bettis were chosen as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
PHOENIX - Late linebacker Junior Seau, offensive guard Will Shields, defensive end Charles Haley, wide receiver Tim Brown and running back Jerome Bettis were chosen as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
They will be joined by contributors Ron Wolf and Bill Polian and seniors committee candidate Mick Tingelhoff.
Seau was the only first-time-eligible finalist voted in by the Hall of Fame selection committee, which met Saturday in downtown Phoenix before the official results were released during the “NFL Honors” awards show.
Not since 2007 has one of the final five finalists not been inducted. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue was a finalist that year.
Chosen to 12 consecutive Pro Bowls, Seau is second in NFL history among linebackers with 268 games played. Energetic and explosive, he played for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. He retired in 2006, but signed with the Patriots mere days later and played 38 games in four seasons in Foxborough. Seau committed suicide in 2012.
“I can’t imagine having a Professional Football Hall of Fame without Junior Seau in it,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said this week.
Bettis, who won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers and played for the St. Louis Rams, was a five-time finalist in his fifth year of eligibility, and several Steelers greats - Dermontti Dawson (seven years), Lynn Swann (14 years) and John Stallworth (10 years) - endured longer waits. Linebacker Kevin Greene was not selected in 2015, his 11th year of eligibility.
Bettis retired as the NFL’s fifth-best rusher, with 13,662 yards. He is currently sixth on the all-time list but had been the only top-10 rusher eligible for the Hall of Fame not inducted.
Bettis and Brown played at Notre Dame, where Brown won the Heisman Trophy.
The final 10 the committee voted on to narrow down a “Final Five” included former NFL defensive back and coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts Tony Dungy (second year eligible), former Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene (11th year eligible), former Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison (second), former Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace (first) and former Rams and Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner (first).
Brown’s long wait ended Saturday night.
The 1988 first-round pick played until 2004 and was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, playing both wide receiver and punt returner and amassing 19,683 yards from scrimmage, 1,094 receptions and 105 touchdowns.
Brown was caught in a logjam of wide receivers and was in his sixth consecutive year as a finalist, as was Haley. Brown played with the Oakland Raiders until 2003 and spent one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Haley is the only NFL player with five Super Bowl victories - three with the San Francisco 49ers and two with the Dallas Cowboys. The two-time Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1994) also has the Super Bowl career record with 4.5 sacks and finished his career with 100.5 sacks.
Shields, regarded as one of the best offensive guards to play in the NFL, starred for the Chiefs, with 12 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons. He was a four-time finalist.
The 46-person committee began its annual meeting at 7 a.m. Mountain time with 18 total finalists and discussed the contributor and senior candidates first.
The initial reduction is to 10, and then five. Those five finalists are voted on individually and need at least 80 percent positive votes.
Three finalists were chosen by special subcommittees and were discussed first. Their fate was determined by a simple yes or no vote. They included two contributors - Wolf and Polian - and Tingelhoff (Vikings). Selection to the Hall of Fame for these committee choices also required 80 percent “yes” votes.
Wolf broke into the NFL in 1963 with the Raiders and is best known for his run with the Packers from 1991 to 2001 as general manager. Polian built several teams into consistent winners, including the Buffalo Bills (1984-92), Carolina Panthers (1995-97) and Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011). Two of his franchise cornerstones -- Jim Kelly of the Bills and Peyton Manning of the Colts -- were in town to witness the honor.
Tingelhoff was first eligible for the Hall of Fame 32 years ago and was a first-time finalist. He played center for the Minnesota Vikings from 1962 to 1978, starting every game he played, including all four Vikings Super Bowl appearances.