Before we get to the big game, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the greatest players to ever step foot on the gridiron. The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced it’s Class of 2015. While the official induction is a few months away, the men who heard their names listed today will never forget January 31, 2015.
Junior Seau played 20 seasons in the NFL. He gained his fame with the San Diego Chargers before stints in Miami and New England. Seau recorded 1522 tackles, 56.5 sacks, and 18 interceptions in 268 games. Seau was a fierce competitor who brought unmatched, infectious enthusiasm to the game.Sadly, Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which led to his suicide in 2012. Junior Seau was beloved by fans and teammates alike and is remembered for the passion he brought every time he stepped on the field. Former Patriots teammate Tom Brady said, ” He had a love for life and he’s missed by all of his family and friends, and certainly by me and the guys that had a chance to be around him. He was a special person.”
Who can forget Jerome Bettis leading his Pittsburgh Steelers onto the field for Super Bowl XL in his hometown of Detroit? The Bus played 13 seasons in the NFL, 10 of which with the Steelers. Bettis ran for 13662(5th most all time at the time of his retirement) and 91 touchdowns. He also added 1449 receiving yards and 3 more scores catching the ball. Bettis is remembered as a big, bruising running back who was able to wear down defenses with his 260 pound build. He is also remembered as a likable guy off the field. Steeler’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, “He is someone I tried to mold myself after. That is what made him so special, outside of the talent he had on the field.” After being snubbed for 4 years, The Bus is about to pull into Canton.
Charles Haley also played in the NFL for 13 seasons. The towering defender accumulated 485 tackles and 100.5 sacks with the 49ers and Cowboys. Haley is the only player in NFL history to be a member of 5 Super Bowl Championship teams: Super Bowls XXIII and XXIV with San Francisco and XXVII, XXVIII, XXX with Dallas. Haley may have been rough around the edges in his playing days, including a physical confrontation with quarterback Steve Young, but no one can deny that the man was one of the great pass rushers of his era.
Tim Brown never won a Super Bowl during his 17 year career. But Brown did rack up some very impressive numbers. In 16 seasons with the Raiders and 1 in Tampa Bay, Brown amassed 14934 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns. Together with Jerry Rice, Brown led a prolific passing attack in Oakland that saw the Raiders advance to Super Bowl XXXVII, where they fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brown has the 6th most receiving yards of all time and is 7th in career touchdown catches. In 2005, Brown signed a one-day contract with the Raiders to retire with the team he spent 16 years with.
Will Shields was the picture of consistency in the 1990s and early 2000s. Shields never missed a game in his 14 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and started all but one game of his career. Shields paved the way for running backs Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson as the premier pulling guard in the NFL. Shields was selected to 12 Pro Bowls and is remembered as one of the greatest run blockers in NFL history.
Mick Tingelhoff is one of 11 Vikings to have played in all four of Minnesota’s Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s. Tingelhoff started all 240 games of his NFL career and is widely considered the best center of his era. The blue collared Tingelhoff blocked for running backs that went to 13 Pro Bowls and played in four Super Bowls. His work ethic earned the respect of both teammates and opponents.
From 1968 to 1991, the Packers had only four winning seasons. That all changed when Ron Wolf became the General Manager of the Green Bay Packers in 1991. Among Wolf’s firsts actions as GM were bringing in Mike Holmgren as head coach and trading for then Falcons’ quarterback Brett Favre. Wolf also lured defensive standouts Reggie White, Gilbert Brown, Santana Dotson and Sean Jones. Wolf’s Packers played in 2 Super Bowls, beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI and falling to the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII. Wolf retired from the position in 2001.
From 1986 to 2009, Bill Polian was the General Manager for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, and Indianapolis Colts. Polian won the NFL Executive of the Year Award twice while in Buffalo in 1988 and in 1991. He built Bills teams that appeared in 3 consecutive Super Bowls before being fired in 1993 for his teams’ inability to win the big one. The Bills would go back to the Super Bowl the following year, and once again fall short, this time losing 30-13 to the Dallas Cowboys. After a brief stint in Carolina that saw the Panthers advance to the NFC Championship Game in the team’s 2nd year of existence, Polian joined the Colts as their new GM in 1998. One of Polian’s first moves was taking Peyton Manning in the 1998 NFL Draft. Polian’s Colts experienced a lot regular season success but was only able to produce 1 Super Bowl Championship, in 2007.
While nobody can argue with any of the names in the Class of 2015, there are a few deserving players who were left out. Players Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, William Perry, John Lynch, Orlando Pace, and Kurt Warner as well as coaches Jimmy Johnson, Don Coryell, and Tony Dungy all have strong cases to be enshrined in the hallowed hall. While they all have an argument to one day join the Hall of Fame, they will have to wait and allow the Class of 2015 enjoy their time in the sun.