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Pro Football Hall of Fame announces Class of 2022

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Eight men – six players, one coach and one official – will be joining the ranks of the immortals as part of Canton’s Class of 2022.

While it might not inspire the same level of debate as its more venerated cousin in Cooperstown, the Pro Football Hall of Fame leads to plenty of conversation about what it means to be a true pro football great. The Selection Committee met back in January to whittle down the 18 names on the list of finalists into this year’s group of inductees.

These eight will be officially inducted in early August: players Tony Boselli, Cliff Branch, LeRoy Butler, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour and Bryant Young; coach Dick Vermeil; and official Art McNally.

It’s always interesting to see who makes the cut for Canton. Many years, there are a handful of first-year candidates whose coronation is a foregone conclusion. This time, however, there weren’t any no-brainer newcomers. And so, we actually have a class featuring players who have waited a while – in some cases, a LONG while – to get in.

Tony Boselli is probably the biggest name of the group. This marks the 16th year of eligibility and sixth year as a finalist for the offensive lineman. He played his entire career with the Jacksonville Jaguars and remains one of the best players that franchise has ever had. For Boselli, the question has always been quantity over quality – he was considered an elite tackle, but injuries ended his career after just seven seasons and 91 games. Still, he managed three straight First-Team All-Pro nods in that span and was named to the All-Decade Team for the 1990s despite only arriving in 1995.

Cliff Branch makes it in just his second year as a finalist. Granted, that’s in 32 years of eligibility. The wide receiver was a star for the Raiders throughout the 1970s and into the early ‘80s. His career stats – 501 catches, 8,685 yards, 67 TDs in 14 seasons – might not pop today, but in context, those are elite receiving numbers. He won three Super Bowls with the Raiders, was an All-Pro three times and named to four Pro Bowls. He was also, at the time of his retirement, the most prolific postseason receiver in NFL history. He passed away in August of 2019 at age 71.

LeRoy Butler makes the Hall in his third year as a finalist and his 16th year of eligibility. The hard-hitting safety spent his entire 12-season career with the Green Bay Packers and is one of the best defensive backs in that franchise’s storied history. His career line includes 38 interceptions and 20.5 sacks, a reminder of his versatility. He made four All-Pro squads and four Pro Bowls and was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s.

Sam Mills lands in Canton in his third year as a finalist and his 20th year of eligibility. Mills played 15 season of pro football, although only 12 were in the NFL – he spent his first three seasons in the USFL in the mid-1980s. The linebacker racked up tackles at an incredible rate, leading his teams in the category in seven of his 12 NFL seasons. The majority of his time was spent as a leader on the New Orleans Saints defense, but he also closed out his NFL run with three very good seasons for the Carolina Panthers. He was a three-time All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler.

Richard Seymour feels like something of an inevitability. This is his fourth time being named a finalist in just five years of eligibility. Seymour was one of the game’s best defensive linemen during his time in the NFL, just an absolute force against both the run and the pass. In his 12 seasons, he racked up 57.5 sacks for the Patriots and the Raiders while also managing 39 passes defensed – a significant number for a lineman. First-team All-Pro three times, second-team twice, seven Pro Bowls and a spot on the All-Decade team for the 2000s. The only surprise is that he wasn’t here sooner.

Bryant Young is the other defensive lineman on this year’s list, heading to the Hall in his 10th year of eligibility and his second as a finalist. In his 14 seasons with the 49ers, he racked up 89.5 sacks. He was considered a great teammate by his peers even beyond his numbers (which were considerable). Young was a two-time All-Pro and a four-time Pro Bowler. He too was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1990s.

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Dick Vermeil is the sole coach on this year’s list. This marks his second time as a finalist and his 12th year of eligibility. His head coaching career began with the Eagles in 1976; he coached the team to an NFC title in 1980 before resigning after the 1982 season. It would be 15 years before he returned to the NFL head coaching ranks, but he made it count – he coached the Rams from 1997-1999 and led the team to a Super Bowl victory in that last season. He also helmed the Chiefs from 2001-2005. He’s a two-time Coach of the Year with a career record of 120-109.

Art McNally feels like a bit of an outlier here. This is the longtime official and league administrator’s second time as a finalist, but the truth is we don’t often see his like make the Hall. Tough to ignore McNally’s contributions, though – the guy was part of the league for more than half-a-century, as an official for the first nine years and then becoming the league’s supervisor of officials, where he codified standards for officials as well as becoming the “Father of Instant Replay,” helping introduce the system to the NFL.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 February 2022 06:10

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