From Dallas Texas
It took more than seven hours for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors to finish their business on Saturday afternoon at the Dallas Sheraton Hotel.
When the work was done, the Hall of Fame had seven new members: Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Ed Sabol, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and senior inductees Chris Hanburger and Les Richter.
On the outside looking in this year was former Chiefs OT Willie Roaf. In his first year of eligibility, he survived the first round of voting to be part of the final 10 under consideration.
(We’ll have more tomorrow on what went down in the meeting room with the Hall of Fame committee, and the surprises and shocks of the process.)
The board of selectors (of which your humble scribe is a member) debated long and hard at several points in the morning and afternoon session. The lengthy discussions involved the three wide receivers who were eligible, Sabol and Sanders.
In the end, none of the three pass catchers – Tim Brown, Chris Carter or Andre Reed – were inducted. Sabol, the man who created NFL Films and creatively presented the game of football like it had never been done before, drew the most discussion time from the group of 44 voters, with the debate going 40 minutes. The 94-year old Sabol was inducted as a contributor, the first with that status since<.
The discussion around Sanders was on his remarkable abilities as a cover cornerback and return skills against his unwillingness to support the run or initiate contact. In the end, Deion’s positives far outweighed his negatives.
The Hall of Fame does not release voting totals on any of the ballots. The senior candidates are voted on first, in a yes or no designation for each one. Then the 15 modern-era finalists are voted down to 10, and from their five. With the final five, to make the Hall the nominee must receive 80 percent of the vote.
In the vote from 15 to 10, eliminated from the group were Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Chris Doleman and Charles Haley.
In the vote from 10 to five, eliminated were Dermontti Dawson, Cortez Kennedy, Curtis Martin, Andre Reed and Roaf.
That left the final five – Dent, Faulk, Sabol, Sanders and Sharpe. All five received the necessary vote percentage to earn induction, along with Hanburger and Richter.
Here is the Class of 2011 that will be officially inducted in August in Canton, Ohio:
DENT – played 15 seasons (1983-1997) with four different teams, but predominately with the Chicago Bears. He’s the 27th member of the Bears to earn induction to Canton and the 16th modern era defensive end.
FAULK – spent 12 seasons in the league (1994-2005) playing for the Colts and Rams. He was in his first year of eligibility for the Hall and became the 14th member of the Rams to earn induction. He’s also the 28th running back enshrined in Canton.
HANBURGER – spent his entire 14-year career (1965-78) with Washington and joining the Hall makes him the 19th member of the Redskins to be honored. He’s the 21st Hall of Fame LB.
RICHTER- played nine years (1954-62) with the Los Angeles Rams and his selection comes 49 years after the end of his playing career. He is the 15th member of the Rams to reach the Hall of Fame. He’s the 22nd linebacker in the Hall.
SABOL – was the founder, president and chairman of NFL Films, starting the company in 1964 and retiring in 1995. During his tenure, Films won 52 Emmy awards.
SANDERS – was in his first year of eligibility for the Hall after a 14-year playing career with five different teams – Atlanta, San Francisco, Dallas, Washing and Baltimore. He became the first member of the Atlanta Falcons to be enshrined with the immortals.
SHARPE – played for 14 seasons (1990-2003) with Denver and Baltimore and became the fourth member of the Broncos to find a spot in Canton.