Terrell Owens wasn’t let into the Pro Football Hall of Fame yet again, but a pair of exciting running backs, an MVP quarterback, a fierce pass rusher and the highest-scoring player in NFL history are among this year’s class.
And while former Dallas Cowboys receiver Owens wasn’t voted in, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will get a bust in Canton.
The voters met in Houston on Saturday morning, the day before Super Bowl LI, to vote on this year’s class. Quarterback Kurt Warner, defensive end Jason Taylor, running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis, kicker Morten Andersen, safety Kenny Easley and Jones were voted into the Hall of Fame.
Warner and Davis got in after nervous waits. Both had great playoff moments and won MVP awards, but both had longevity issues. Warner had great years with the St. Louis Rams, including a Super Bowl championship and two MVP awards, and took the Arizona Cardinals to a Super Bowl appearance too. But he had just six 3,000-yard seasons after getting a late start (his first opportunity to start came at age 28) and some injuries and inconsistent play in the middle of his career.
Davis was one of the most dominant backs of his era, a 2,000-yard rusher and league MVP in 1998. A year before that, he was Super Bowl XXXII MVP in a dominant performance against the Green Bay Packers. Davis was a great postseason performer and averaged 4.6 yards per carry in the regular season, but he played only 78 career games. He never recovered from a knee injury suffered early in the 1999 season, rushing for only four touchdowns in 17 games after that before retiring. But his elite seasons were enough to get a nod into the Hall.
“How does somebody perform when the stakes are high?” Davis said earlier this week. “I think my résumé would say when the stakes are high, I showed up.”
Tomlinson was the surest thing among the finalists. He was one of the most versatile backs in league history, and was fantastic at getting the ball in the end zone. Tomlinson played nine seasons with the Chargers, and scored 10 or more rushing touchdowns every season. He set an NFL record with an incredible 31 touchdowns (28 rushing, 3 receiving) in 2006. He was named NFL MVP that season.
Tomlinson’s numbers – fifth all-time with 13,684 rushing yards, second all-time with 145 rushing touchdowns, third all-time with 162 total touchdowns – are undeniable, but he said his Hall-of-Fame résumé should include more than that.
“It has nothing to do with the numbers, because the numbers are what they are,” Tomlinson said earlier this week. “To me, I never cheated the game. I never disrespected what the game meant. I always did the right thing on and off the field, treat people with respect the same way I wanted to be treated, I tried to be a good leader to my teammates. Those are the things, for me, that I look at outside the numbers.”
Taylor, a six-time Pro Bowler, was a feared pass rusher. Taylor played 15 seasons – 13 with the Miami Dolphins and one each with the Washington Redskins and New York Jets – and finished with 139.5 career sacks. He was the 2006 NFL defensive player of the year.
Taylor was elected his first time on the ballot.
“T.D. (Davis) just said in the hallway, ‘You seem so cool with this,'” Taylor said. “I’m not cool with it, I’m still in shock. I didn’t expect this.”
The highest-scoring player in NFL history, Andersen, got the nod. Andersen played from 1982 to 2004, and was one of the most consistent kickers ever. He is first in NFL history in games played (382), points scored (2,544) and most field goals (565). He joins Jan Stenerud as the second pure kicker to make the Hall of Fame.
“Obviously we shed a few tears,” Andersen said. “Just tremendously humbled and honored to be in this class.”
Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, and the franchise has grown tremendously since then. There was success on the field early on, with three Super Bowl titles in Jones’ first decade as owner, and unbelievable business success. Forbes last summer said the Cowboys were the most valuable team in sports, at $4 billion.
Easley, a former Seahawks safety who underwent triple-bypass heart surgery last year, was the only veterans committee nominee and was given the nod. The safety position has been underrepresented for years. Ken Houston was the last person to spend his entire career at safety and make the Hall of Fame, and he retired in 1980. Easley’s induction broke that streak, though fellow safeties John Lynch and Brian Dawkins were among the finalists who weren’t voted in.
Easley said he thought he wouldn’t get in the Hall of Fame after waiting 20 years.
“I’m glad it happened now,” Easley said. “If it happened in 1997 I wouldn’t be as grateful as I am now.”
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