Every year, the NFL honors its immortals. This week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its list of 103 candidates, which will be pared down to 25 finalists later this year.
The list includes 10 first-year finalists, including Terrell Owens and Brett Favre. If Owens is elected, you can bet there will be tears shed at the podium. When, not if, Favre is selected this year, you can count on one of the longest speeches in Hall of Fame induction history and, with any luck, will force the Packers to play five preseason games next year to get the Cheeseheads to travel in mass to see Favre inducted.
The list is a who’s who of NFL great includes Favre and Kurt Warner, running backs Terrell Davis, Roger Craig and Tiki Barber, wide receivers Owens, Marvin Harrison, Sterling Sharpe and Isaac Bruce, offensive linemen Orlando Pace and Tony Boselli, linebacker Kevin Greene, defensive backs Rodney Harrison, John Lynch and Ty Law, kicker Morten Andersen and head coaches Don Coryell, Bill Cowher, Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson and Dick Vermeil.
However, the biggest inclusion that will likely draw the most question marks from fans was the inclusion of former Viking Darren Sharper, who is serving a long prison sentence for drugging and raping women in several states.
The criteria for nomination deals only with on-field accomplishments, but it can safely be said that none of the Hall voters will cast their ballot Sharper’s way. For a league that is always looking to polish its image and bury the skeletons in its closet, the inclusion of Sharper seems to be an insulting slap in the face to fans, especially women who have been sexually assaulted or administered date rape drugs.
Granted, the Hall of Fame includes questionable characters like O.J. Simpson, but, at the time he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he was happily married, not on trial for a double murder. While Sharper seemed like a fringe candidate to begin with, the fact that he would be one of the 10 first-year eligible players on the list makes little to no sense given what was already known at the time the nominations and initial ballot was set.
There are several players that wore Vikings purple at some point on the list of 103 candidates for potential induction. Aside from Favre and Sharper, there is also Craig, Andersen, Herschel Walker, Joey Browner, Gary Anderson and Dungy.
Maybe the veterans committee will do as it did belatedly last year when they gave a long overdue induction to Mick Tingelhoff and put ironman Jim Marshall in the Hall where he belongs.
Here is the full list of 103 modern era nominees. First-year eligible players are listed in capital letters and finalist from last year are denoted with an asterisk (*):
Quarterbacks (6) – Drew Bledsoe, BRETT FAVRE, Steve McNair, Phil Simms, Vinny Testaverde, *Kurt Warner
Running Backs (15) – Shaun Alexander, Ottis Anderson, Tiki Barber, Roger Craig, Stephen Davis, *Terrell Davis, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, Edgerrin James, Daryl Johnston, Jamal Lewis, CLINTON PORTIS, Herschel Walker, Ricky Watters, BRIAN WESTBROOK
Wide Receivers (9) – Isaac Bruce, Gary Clark, Henry Ellard, *Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, TERRELL OWENS, Sterling Sharpe, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith
Tight Ends (2) – Mark Bavaro, Jay Novacek
Offensive Linemen (19) – Tony Boselli (T), Jeff Bostic (C), Jim Covert (T), ALAN FANECA (G), Jay Hilgenberg (C), Chris Hinton (G/T), Kent Hull (C), Joe Jacoby (T), Jon Jansen (T), Mike Kenn (T), Jim Lachey (T), Kevin Mawae (C/G), Mark May (G/T/C), Tom Nalen (C), Nate Newton (G), *Orlando Pace (T), Chris Samuels (T), Mark Schlereth (G), Steve Wisniewski (G)
Defensive Linemen (6) – Dexter Manley (DE), Charles Mann (DE), Leslie O'Neal (DE), Simeon Rice (DE), Fred Smerlas (NT), Bryant Young (DT)
Linebackers (13) – Cornelius Bennett, Tedy Bruschi, KEITH BULLUCK, *Kevin Greene, Ken Harvey, Levon Kirkland, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest, Karl Mecklenburg, Matt Millen, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas, MIKE VRABEL
Defensive Backs (14) – Eric Allen (CB), Steve Atwater (S), Joey Browner (S), LeRoy Butler (S), Rodney Harrison (S), Ty Law (CB), Albert Lewis (CB), *John Lynch (S), LAWYER MILLOY (S), DARREN SHARPER (S), Shawn Springs (CB), Troy Vincent (CB/S), Everson Walls (CB), Darren Woodson (S)
Kickers/Punters (6) – *Morten Andersen (K), Gary Anderson (K), JOHN CARNEY (K), Jason Elam (K), Sean Landeta (P), Nick Lowery (K)
Special Teams (3) – ETHAN ALBRIGHT (LS), Brian Mitchell (KR/PR), Steve Tasker
Coaches (15) – *Don Coryell, Bill Cowher, *Tony Dungy, Tom Flores, Mike Holmgren, *Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Buddy Parker, Richie Petitbon, Dan Reeves, Pete Rodriguez, Lou Saban, Marty Schottenheimer, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil