Four first-year eligible players, John Randle, Shannon Sharpe, Bruce Smith, and Rod Woodson, are among the 17 finalists who will be considered for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when the Hall's Board of Selectors meets in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, January 31, 2009.
Joining the four first-year eligible players, are nine other modern-era players, two contributors and two players nominated earlier by the Hall of Fame's Senior Committee. The contributor finalists are former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Buffalo Bills founder/owner Ralph Wilson, Jr. The Senior Committee nominees, announced in August 2008, are former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes and former Atlanta Falcons defensive end Claude Humphrey. The other modern-era player finalists include wide receiver Cris Carter; center Dermontti Dawson; defensive end Richard Dent; guard Russ Grimm; defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy; guard Bob Kuechenberg; guard Randall McDaniel; wide receiver Andre Reed; and linebacker Derrick Thomas.
To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent.
Listed alphabetically, the 17 finalists with their positions, teams, and years active follow:
- Cris Carter - Wide Receiver - 1987-89 Philadelphia Eagles, 1990-2001 Minnesota Vikings, 2002 Miami Dolphins
- Dermontti Dawson - Center - 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
- Richard Dent - Defensive End - 1983-1993, 1995 Chicago Bears, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1996 Indianapolis Colts, 1997 Philadelphia Eagles
- Russ Grimm - Guard - 1981-1991 Washington Redskins
- Bob Hayes - Wide Receiver - 1965-1974 Dallas Cowboys, 1975 San Francisco 49ers
- Claude Humphrey - Defensive End - 1968-1978 Atlanta Falcons, 1979-1981 Philadelphia Eagles
- Cortez Kennedy - Defensive Tackle - 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks
- Bob Kuechenberg - Guard - 1970-1984 Miami Dolphins
- Randall McDaniel - Guard - 1988-1999 Minnesota Vikings, 2000-01 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- John Randle - Defensive Tackle - 1990-2000 Minnesota Vikings, 2001-03 Seattle Seahawks
- Andre Reed - Wide Receiver - 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000 Washington Redskins
- Shannon Sharpe - Tight End - 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
- Bruce Smith - Defensive End - 1985-1999 Buffalo Bills, 2000-03 Washington Redskins
- Paul Tagliabue - Commissioner - 1989-2006 National Football League
- Derrick Thomas - Linebacker - 1989-1999 Kansas City Chiefs
- Ralph Wilson - Team Founder/Owner - 1960-Present Buffalo Bills
- Rod Woodson - Cornerback/Safety - 1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders
Carter, Dent, Grimm, Hayes, Humphrey, Kuechenberg, McDaniel, Reed, Tagliabue, Thomas, and Wilson have all been finalists in previous years. Although they were eligible in previous years, this is the first time Dawson and Kennedy have been finalists.
From this year's list, five players - Dawson, Grimm, Kennedy, Kuechenberg and Thomas - spent their entire NFL career with just one team.
Hayes and Humphrey were selected as senior candidates by the Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee at their August 2008 meeting. The Seniors Committee reviews the qualifications of those players whose careers took place more than 25 years ago. The remaining 15 modern-era finalists were determined by a vote of the Hall's 44-member Board of Selectors from a list of 133 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 while a contributor need not be retired.
At the 2009 election meeting, the selectors will thoroughly discuss the careers of each finalist before narrowing the field to seven candidates (two senior and five modern-era). At least four candidates must be elected but the total class cannot number more than seven.
Of the 2009 finalists, Hayes has been eligible for 29 years, Humphrey 23 years, Kuechenberg 20 years, Grimm 13 years, Dent seven years, Thomas five years, Dawson, Kennedy and Reed four years, McDaniel three years, Carter two years, and Randle, Sharpe, Smith, and Woodson are in their first year of eligibility. Contributors need not to be retired to be considered for Hall of Fame election. Therefore there is no specific year at which Tagliabue and Wilson first became eligible for consideration.
The Class of 2009 will be announced at a press conference at 2:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, January 31, at the Super Bowl media center.
Representatives of the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche will tabulate all votes during the meeting. At the press conference, they will present Pro Football Hall of Fame President/Executive Director Steve Perry with an envelope containing the names of the nominees elected. Each newly elected member will be contacted immediately by the Hall of Fame. Members of the Class of 2009 in Tampa for the Super Bowl will be asked to join the press conference. Those not able to attend will be asked to join via teleconference.
The Enshrinement of the Class of 2009 will take place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, on Saturday, August 8, 2009. The Enshrinement Ceremony will be televised live by both ESPN and the NFL Network. The annual Hall of Fame Game will be played on Sunday, August 9, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. and broadcast live by NBC. Teams have not yet been announced.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, a multi-day celebration of the enshrinement of the newest Hall of Fame Class, is held each year in Canton. The festival which culminates with the Enshrinement Ceremony and NFL Hall of Fame Game includes 15 special public events over an 11-day period. Two major events are the Enshrinees Dinner (Friday, August 7), and the Enshrinees GameDay Roundtable (Sunday, August 9). It is at the Enshrinees Dinner where each member of the Class of 2009 will be presented his gold Pro Football Hall of Fame Jacket. At the Enshrinees GameDay Roundtable, the Class of 2009 will be featured center stage as they share memories of the game and their personal feelings about being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ticket information for the Enshrinement Ceremony, NFL Hall of Fame Game and the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival events can be found on the Hall of Fame's website (Profootballhof.com).