The 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was sculpted from a list so impressive, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown(notes), Cris Carter, Charles Haley, and Chris Doleman didn't even make the final cut of 10, and in a lean year, any of those guys would have been worthy inductees. Of the 15 finalists, a list of 10 was then made - Marshall Faulk, Deion Sanders, Ed Sabol, Curtis Martin, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Willie Roaf, and Shannon Sharpe.
And of those 10, Richard Dent, Marshall Faulk, Chris Hanburger, Les Richter, Deion Sanders, Shannon Sharpe and Ed Sabol are Hall of Famers, with Hanburger and Richter coming in from the Veterans' Committee.
And just in case you're wondering why these guys are now Hall-of-Famers, here are a few relevant facts about each player:
Richard Dent: The MVP of Super Bowl XX was a four-time Pro Bowler. A key cog in the Chicago Bears' "46" defense led by Buddy Ryan, Dent led the NFL in sacks in 1985 with 17 and had over 10 sacks in eight different seasons, including five straight from 1984 through 1988. He finished his career with 137.5 sacks, eight interceptions, and 671 tackles.
Marshall Faulk: Perhaps the best versatile running back in the league's history, Faulk became the second back to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season (1999). From 1998 through 2001, Faulk may have had the most productive four-year stretch of any running back the NFL has ever seen. Traded from the Colts to the Rams before the 1999 season, Faulk was the engine of the Greatest Show on Turf, one of the explosive offenses of the modern era. A seven-time Pro Bowler, Faulk finished his career with 12,279 yards and 100 touchdowns rushing, and 6,875 yards and 36 touchdowns receiving (that's more receiving yards than four current Hall-of-Fame receivers!). In his career, Faulk totaled 19,154 yards from scrimmage.
Chris Hanburger: Voted into the Pro Bowl nine times (the most among any of the 2011 class), "The Hangman" was selected in the 18th and final round of the 1965 draft. He started 135 straight games at linebacker beginning in 1968, a streak that lasted a decade. Much of his career predated official statistical calculation, but Hanburger is unofficially credited with 19 interceptions, 17 fumble recoveries, 46 sacks and five touchdowns. He was the 1972 NFC Defensive Player of the Year and helped the Washington Redskins get to Super Bowl VII.
Les Richter: The guard, linebacker and kicker was drafted by the Dallas Texans in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft. The Texans lasted just one season, but Richter went on to rack up eight Pro Bowl selections in just nine seasons played with the Los Angeles Rams. Typical of the multi-tasking required of players in his era, Richter also led the NFL with 24 field goal attempts in 1955. He amassed 16 interceptions and 192 points in his career. After his football career, Richter went on to a long career in the racing industry, and eventually became the senior vice-president of operations for NASCAR. Regrettably, Richter passed away in June of 2010.
Deion Sanders: Perhaps the greatest athlete ever to don a football uniform, "Prime Time" became an electrifying return man and occasional offensive player, but he's best known as the man who redefined the cornerback position and established himself as the man all potential "shutdown corners" would be compared to. Stats don't tell the whole story because as his career went on, more and more quarterbacks realized how silly it was to throw in his area, but the eight-time Pro Bowler grabbed 53 interceptions in his career. Along with Faulk, a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Shannon Sharpe: When he retired, Sharpe held most relevant records for tight ends. He came after Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow(notes), but Sharpe was among the first of the great pass-catching tight ends, and his ridiculous competitive spirit helped charge his teams - the Denver Broncos twice and the Baltimore Ravens once - to Super Bowl championships. Tony Gonzalez(notes) will eclipse most tight end records, but Sharpe's numbers are more than worthy for a trip to Canton - the eight-time Pro Bowler caught 805 passes for 10,060 yards and 63 touchdowns.
Ed Sabol: In 1962, Sabol took his floundering Blair Motion Pictures company and entered into an agreement with the NFL to film its games. Over the next 50 years, Sabol created a mythology of the league that helped pro football become the nation's most popular sport. With brilliant cinematography, compelling music and dramatic narrative, Sabol became the greatest visual storyteller in any sporting medium. His Emmys are too many to count, and his impact on the game is priceless. Hopefully, his son Steve will not be too far behind him in the Hall.