Former Players Deserve Hall of Fame Entry

Former University of Alabama All-Americans Kenny "Snake" Stabler (1965-67) and Derrick Thomas (1985-88) were among the list of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2006. The Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors chose the 25 semifinalists from the recently announced list of 112 preliminary nominees, according to a press release distributed by The University yesterday.

It is a pity and a shame on the voters that Thomas was not inducted on the first ballot a year ago, while Steve Young and Dan Marino cruised to the Hall on their first attempts.

That is no shot at either of the quarterbacks, who are deserving of the honor. But Thomas should not have taken a back seat to either. Young and Marino both had the opportunity to become NFL analysts on television networks after their careers ended.

Had Thomas simply retired after the 1999 season and entered the television world, and not died tragically on February 8, 2000 from complications resulting from a serious automobile accident on January 23, 2003, he would have had the opportunity to make special event and TV appearances constantly reminding football fans and Hall of Fame voters of his greatness just by his continued presence.

Perhaps if he had played in a coastal city his entire career instead playing in flyover country Kansas City throughout his 11 years in the NFL his accomplishments would have been properly appreciated last year.

For these reasons, Thomas is probably remembered best by Alabama fans who watched him set the Alabama record for most sacks in a game (first and second place with 5 and 4), season (first and second place with 27 and 18) and career (52), all of which he still holds today, and for winning the Butkus trophy for the nation's best linebacker in 1988.

Alabama fans - fans everywhere - who followed his career should get behind Thomas' prompt election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame before memory of his dominance and accomplishments fade.

According to the wonderful tribute page on the Kansas City Chiefs web site Thomas said after the '94 season, "When my career is over, I want people to look back and view me as the best, or one of the two best to ever play the position."

He should have had that honor last year. It would be a continuation of a travesty should he be denied again.

Thomas was the NFL's pass rusher extraordinaire during his 11 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, making 9 Pro Bowl appearances in those 11 years.

On the field, he was one of the most dominant defensive players in NFL annals. He established Chiefs career records for sacks (126.5), safeties (3), fumble recoveries (18) and forced fumbles (45). The 126.5 sacks are the fourth-highest total by an NFL linebacker. He set the Kansas City single-season record with 20 sacks in 1990, including an NFL single-game record seven sacks during the season.

If Lawrence Taylor changed the game with the onset of the speed rush, Thomas nearly perfected the tactic. He made the Chiefs a better team as a key to a playoff string that started under him and Marty Schottenheimer, whose tenure as the Chiefs' head coach commenced the same year as Thomas' arrival. Before then, Kansas City had been to the playoffs once since 1971.

Thomas played in 169 games, including 158 starts for the Chiefs. He was the Mack Hill Award winner in 1989, given to the NFL's Rookie of the Year. He played in nine consecutive NFL Pro Bowls (1989-97), the most of any Chiefs player in history. He was the initial two-time winner of the Chiefs MVP trophy (1991, 1994), which now bears his name.

He was named the 1993 NFL Man of the Year and the 1995 Byron "Whizzer" White Award winner. He was also the former President George Bush's 823rd "Point of Light".

Stabler and Thomas look to join six other former Alabama stars in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Other former Tide players enshrined in Canton, Ohio are John Hannah (New England Patriots), Don Hutson (Green Bay Packers), Joe Namath (New York Jets), Ozzie Newsome (Cleveland Browns), Dwight Stephenson (Miami Dolphins) and Bart Starr (Green Bay Packers).

Stabler spent 16 years in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders (1968-79), Houston Oilers (1980-81) and New Orleans Saints (1982-84). He was named the NFL Player of the Year in 1976, leading Oakland to its first-ever Super Bowl win. In leading the Raiders to a win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI, Stabler completed 194 of 291 passes (.667) for 2,737 yards and 27 TDs.

He was also the NFL's passing champion in 1976 with 2,737 yards. Stabler was twice named the AFC Player of the Year (1974, 1976). A three-time All-Pro selection (1974, 1976-77), Stabler also played three times in the NFL Pro Bowl (1973-74, 76). He finished his Raiders career with 71 wins and was the all-time leader in pass attempts, completions, completion percentage, passing yards and touchdowns.

The list of 25 semifinalists will be reduced by mail ballot to 13 modern-era candidates. That list will then increase to 15 finalist nominees with the inclusion of the two recommended candidates of the Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee. This year's Seniors Committee nominees, who were announced in August, are former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden, and Cowboys tackle Rayfield Wright. The Seniors Committee reviews the qualifications of those players, coaches, and contributors whose careers took place more than 25 years ago. The list of 15 finalists for the Class of 2006 will be announced in mid-January.

The list of 25 modern-era semi-finalists includes: Troy Aikman (QB – 1989-2000 Dallas Cowboys)
Harry Carson (LB – 1976-1988 New York Giants)
Dermontti Dawson (C – 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers)
Fred Dean (DE – 1975-1981 San Diego Chargers, 1981-1985 San Francisco 49ers)
Richard Dent (DE – 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles)
Randy Gradishar (LB – 1974-1983 Denver Broncos)
L. C. Greenwood (DE – 1969-1981 Pittsburgh Steelers)
Russ Grimm (G – 1981-1991 Washington Redskins)
Ray Guy (P – 1973-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders)
Lester Hayes (CB – 1977-1986 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders)
Claude Humphrey (DE – 1968-1974, 1976-1978 Atlanta Falcons, 1979-1981 Philadelphia Eagles)
Michael Irvin (WR – 1988-1999 Dallas Cowboys)
Bob Kuechenberg (G – 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins)
Art Modell (Owner – 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2003 Baltimore Ravens)
Art Monk (WR – 1980-1993 Washington Redskins, 1994 New York Jets, 1995 Philadelphia Eagles)
Warren Moon (QB – 1984-1993 Houston Oilers, 1994-1996 Minnesota Vikings, 1997-1998 Seattle Seahawks, 1999-2000 Kansas City Chiefs)
Andre Reed (WR –1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins)
Ken Stabler (QB – 1970-1979 Oakland Raiders, 1980-1981 Houston Oilers, 1982-1984 New Orleans Saints)
Derrick Thomas, LB – 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs)
Thurman Thomas (RB - 1988-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Miami Dolphins)
Roger Wehrli (CB – 1969-1982 St. Louis Cardinals)
Reggie White (DE/DT – 1985-1992 Philadelphia Eagles, 1993-1998 Green Bay Packers, 2000 Carolina Panthers)
Ralph Wilson, Jr., Owner – 1959-current Buffalo Bills)
George Young (GM/Administrator – 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-1978 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League) and Gary Zimmerman (T – 1986-1992 Minnesota Vikings, 1993-1997 Denver Broncos).

The Class of 2006 will be determined at the Selection Committee's annual meeting on Saturday, February 4, 2006, in Detroit, Michigan, the day before Super Bowl XL. The election results are announced immediately following the meeting at a press conference at the media headquarters. Hall of Fame bylaws stipulate that between three and six new members will be selected each year.

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