It's the highest honor a professional football player can get, to be voted into the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. A team of 44 of the most prestigious football writers in the country acknowledging that you were among the best of the best at your position for a generation. 267 names have been immortalized in Canton since the HOF opened in 1963, and now six more names will be added.
Every player who is inducted into the Hall is deserving of the honor, and each year a list of names omitted from that year's class is debated and scrutinized. This year, and this class are no different. For the hardcore followers of the NFL; Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson, Willie Roaf, Chris Doleman, and senior committee electee Jack Butler makes one impressive list. But for the casual fan, it lacks the BIG names of recent years. Now before you fans of the 9 teams these men played for (Pittsburgh, Seattle, New Orleans, Kansas City, Minnesota, Atlanta, San Francisco, New York(A), and New England respectively) begin to lose your minds because your guy is "the greatest of all time and a superstar", hear me out….
Four of the players enshrined are offensive and defensive linemen, not the most glamorous positions in the game. One player retired 53 years ago. And the closest this class has to a marquee name is a running back (Curtis Martin) that most people forget about when naming the best rushers of all time because of his humble and low-key demeanor. Also, just look at the biggest names enshrined in the last five years; Michael Irvin('07), Thurman Thomas('07), Darrell Green('08), Derrick Thomas('09), Rod Woodson('09), Dick LeBeau('10), Emmitt Smith('10), Jerry Rice('10), and the really impressive 2011 class which included Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Richard Dent, Deion Sanders, and Ed Sabol.
Now that's a list of superstars.
So for those who aren't that familiar with the 2012 class, here's a rundown.
Jack Butler 1951-59, Cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers: Senior Committee electee
Butler was known for his tackling abilities mostly, but he had a talent for picking off passes as well. His 52 career interceptions was #2 all time when he retired, tied/set INT records with four in a game and two returned for touchdowns in a season. Butler was a three time All-Pro before a leg injury forced him to retire. Named to NFL all-decade team 1950's.
Curtis Martin 1995-2005, Running Back, New England Patriots/New York Jets
1995 Rookie of the Year, two time All-Pro. Led NFL in rushing in 2004 with 1,697 yards. Second player in NFL history to start career with 10 straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons. Retired as NFL’s fourth all-time leading rusher (14,101 yards). Martin led every team he played for in rushing as he quietly set numerous Jets, and Patriots team rushing records.
Dermontti Dawson 1988-2000, Center, Pittsburgh Steelers
Six time All-Pro, seven time Pro-Bowl selection. Played 170 consecutive games from 1988-1999. Named to NFL all-decade team 1990's. Dawson revolutionized how the center position was played as he led an O-line that helped the Steelers establish themselves as one of the best running teams of the mid to late 90's
Willie Roaf 1993-2005, Offensive Tackle, New Orleans Saints/Kansas City Chiefs
11 Pro-Bowls, seven time All-Pro. Named to NFL all-decade team 1990's. Roaf was a prototype bookend left tackle on a Saints team that rarely made the playoffs, which is why Roaf was sometimes underrated as a player.
Cortez Kennedy 1990-2000, Defensive Tackle, Seattle Seahawks
#3 overall pick in 1990 draft by the Seahawks, 58 career sacks, eight Pro-Bowl selections, three All-Pro selections, 1992 defensive player of the year. Named to NFL all-decade team 1990's. Kennedy was a linchpin on defense for a Seahawks team that was average at best throughout his career.
Chris Doleman 1985-1999, Linebacker/Defensive End, Minnesota Vikings/San Francisco 49ers/ Atlanta Falcons
Three time All-Pro, eight Pro-Bowl selections, 150.5 sacks was 4th all time at retirement, 21 sacks in a season was 2nd most at time of retirement. Named to NFL all-decade team 1990's. Doleman was one of the most durable and consistent defensive ends during his 15 year career.
Notable candidates not selected
-Jerome Bettis 1993-2005, Running Back
-Tim Brown 1988-2004, Wide Receiver
-Cris Carter 1987-2002, Wide Receiver
-Charles Haley 1986-1996, Defensive End/Linebacker
-Bill Parcells 1983-2006, Coach