When the list of candidates for the 2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame class were announced, it seemed like at least two things would be a foregone conclusion:
1. The late Junior Seau, inside linebacker and face of the San Diego Chargers for over a decade, would be inducted as a first ballot Hall of Famer.
2. At least one, and possibly more, of the St. Louis Rams "Greatest Show on Turf" offense from the late 90's and early 2000's would go in, with four of them becoming eligible for the first time this year -- tackle Orlando Pace, quarterback Kurt Warner, and wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt.
As it turned out, one of those two things wound up happening.
In his first year of eligibility, Seau is the crown jewel of an eight man class that was elected Saturday night will be inducted into Canton this summer. Seau played 13 seasons with the Chargers, followed by three years with the Miami Dolphins and his final four seasons with the New England Patriots. He was a 12-time Pro Bowler, and eight-time first-team All-Pro selection, and was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.
Tragically, Seau committed suicide in 2012 and later was found to have developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (a brain disease).
"This is a huge honor for our family," said Tyler Seau, Junior's son. "It is definitely with a heavy heart that I am accepting this because he should be here. He is here with us right now, and he is joining this family and team that everyone is talking about, but I think family is even stronger. Emotionally, it is tough because we are missing a huge part, but we are staying strong and this is a blessing. We are humbled to be a part of this family."
Joining Seau as modern-era enshrinees in the Class of 2015 will be former Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields, former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown and former Cowboys and 49ers defensive end Charles Haley.
The class of 2015 also will include former Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, who played 240 games in his career and was the seniors committee nominee, as well as two nominees in the contributors category -- former Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian, and longtime NFL executive Ron Wolf, best known for his time with the Green Bay Packers.
The board of selectors began the day with 15 modern-era finalists, which were trimmed first to 10 finalists and then to five in the daylong meeting. A finalist must receive 80 percent of the vote from the 46 selectors to be selected for enshrinement.
Shields, a 12-time Pro Bowler like Seau, never missed a game in his 14 seasons with the Chiefs and started all but one game of his career. Haley was in his 11th year of eligibility, Brown in his sixth and Bettis in his fifth. Haley is the only player to win five Super Bowls -- two with San Francisco and three with Dallas.
When Bettis retired following the 2005 season his 13,662 yards rushing were fifth all time and his eight 1,000-yard seasons were tied for third all time. At the time of his retirement, Brown was third all time in catches (1,094), second all time in receiving yards (14,934) and tied for third all time with 100 touchdown receptions.
Among the players and coaches who did not make the cut Saturday were kicker Morten Andersen, coach Don Coryell, running back Terrell Davis, coach Tony Dungy, linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, coach Jimmy Johnson, safety John Lynch, as well as Pace and Warner.
The consensus seems to be that Pace should get in as soon as next year, and that Warner seems like a decent shot for eventual enshrinement as well, although next year the list of eligible players will include virtual locks Brett Favre and Terrell Owens. Amazingly, there have been no quarterbacks enshrined since Troy Aikman and Warren Moon nine years ago.
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