January 10, 2010: Tim Brown, Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith, three of the greatest players in NFL history, are expected to make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility when the Hall’s selection committee meets in Miami on Saturday, Feb. 6, a day before Super Bowl XLIV. The trio head a list of 15 modern-era finalists who will be considered for election. The inductees will be unveiled live on NFL Network.
Unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL's all-time leading players over the past 15-20 years have not been tainted by steroids scandals, clearing the way for such players as Brown, Rice and Smith to be judged by their respective on-field merits. By comparison, such players as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have found their current or potential future baseball Hall of Fame paths filled with obstacles.
In recent years, Smith and Rice have become celebrities off the gridiron. Smith won the Dancing with the Stars third season of competition on ABC in November 2006, and he currently has endorsement deals with Just For Men, Good Feet and the National Pork Board. Rice was a runner-up in the second season of Dancing with the Stars in February 2006, appearing in the first season of Spike TV's reality show, Pros vs. Joes, and has written books, appears as an analyst on sports shows and made other TV appearances.
In conjunction with its official process, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been running a promotion with Phillips-Van Heusen and JC Penney providing a forum for fans to offer their unofficial opinions on which players should be part of the Class of 2010. The Van Heusen Fan’s Choice selections will also be unveiled live on NFL Network just prior to the official announcement from the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Although the outcome has no official determination on which players will actually be inducted, the fan’s choice list includes seven candidates who also appear on the official Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee's list of 15: Brown, Cris Carter, Richard Dent, Charles Haley, Rice, Shannon Sharpe and Smith.
Brown, who was named to nine Pro Bowls in his 17-year career, caught 1,094 passes (third best all-time) for 14,934 yards and 100 TDs, returned 326 punts for 3,220 yards and three TDs and 49 kickoff returns for 1,235 yards and a TD. Rice The Class of 2010 will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 7. Participating teams in the Hall of Fame game, scheduled for Aug. 8, have yet to be announced by the NFL. Rice is the NFL's all-time leader with 1,549 receptions, 22,895 yards gained, 76 games with 100 or more yards in pass receiving and 197 career TDs in a career that spanned from 1985-2004. Smith is the all-time leaders with 18,355 yards rushing, 164 rushing TDs and most games with 100 or more yards rushing (78) from 1990-2004).
Among those players and coaches on the Hall of Fame list, Russ Grimm has been eligible 14 years, Roger Craig has been eligible 12 years, Rickey Jackson 10 years, Dent eight years, Haley six years, Andre Reed, Dermonti Dawson and Cortez Kennedy five years, Carter three years, and John Randle and Sharpe two years. Carter, Dawson, Dent, Grimm, Kennedy, Randle, Reed, and Sharpe have all been finalists in previous years. Although they were eligible in previous years, this is the first time Don Coryell, Craig, Haley, Jackson, Little and Dick LeBeau have been finalists.
To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80% when the 44-member selection committee meets. No more than five modern-era nominees can be elected in a given year and a class of six or seven can only be achieved if one or both senior nominees are elected. The 15 modern-era finalists were determined by a vote of the Hall’s selection committee from a list of 131 preliminary nominees that earlier was reduced to a list of 25 semifinalists. To be eligible for election, modern-era players and coaches must be retired at least five years (prior to 2007 coaches were eligible immediately after retiring).
The official Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee’s 2010 finalists (15 modern-era and two senior nominees*) in alphabetical order with their positions, teams, and years active:
• Tim Brown: WR/KR – 1988-2003 Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders, 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
• Cris Carter: WR – 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
• Don Coryell:– Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
• Roger Craig: Running Back – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
• Dermonti Dawson: Center – 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
• Richard Dent: DE – 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
• Russ Grimm: OG – 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
• Charles Haley: –DE/LB – 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
• Rickey Jackson: LB – 1981-1993 New Orleans Saints, 1994-95 San Francisco 49ers
• Cortez Kennedy: DT – 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
• *Dick LeBeau: CB – 1959-1972 Detroit Lions
• *Floyd Little: RB – 1967-1975 Denver Broncos
• John Randle: DT – 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
• Andre Reed: WE – 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
• Jerry Rice: WR – 1985-2000 San Francisco 49ers, 2001-04 Oakland Raiders, 2004 Seattle Seahawks
• Shannon Sharpe: TE – 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
• Emmitt Smith: RB – 1990-2002 Dallas Cowboys, 2003-04 Arizona Cardinals