Five first-year-eligible players — Jets great Curtis Martin along with Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Willie Roaf and Deion Sanders — are among the semifinalists being considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2011.
Although the semifinalists list is usually limited to 25, this year there are 26 due to a tie for the final position. The Pro Football Hall of Fame by-laws for the selection committee provides that the list shall consist of "25 nominees plus all ties." The selection committee chose the 26 semifinalists from the previously announced list of 114 preliminary nominees.
In addition to the five first-year-eligible nominees, two other previously eligible candidates, Edward DeBartolo Jr. and Ed Sabol, have made it to the semifinalists list for the first time. Each of the remaining 19 nominees on the selection committee's list has been a semifinalist at least once prior to this year.
The list of 26 modern-era semifinalists in alphabetical order:
Coach Don Coryell — 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-86 San Diego Chargers
RB Roger Craig — 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
RB Terrell Davis — 1995-2001 Denver Broncos
C Dermontti Dawson — 1988-2000 Pittsburgh Steelers
Owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. — 1979-97 San Francisco 49ers
DE/LB Chris Doleman — 1985-93, '99 Minnesota Vikings, 1994-95 Atlanta Falcons, 1996-98 San Francisco 49ers
RB Marshall Faulk — 1994-98 Indianapolis Colts, 1999-2005 St. Louis Rams
LB/DE Kevin Greene — 1985-92 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, '98-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers
P Ray Guy — 1973-86 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
DE/LB Charles Haley — 1986-91, '99 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys
CB Lester Hayes — 1977-86 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
DT Cortez Kennedy — 1990-2000 Seattle Seahawks* *
RB Curtis Martin — 1995-97 New England Patriots, 1998-2005 New York Jets
Contributor Ed Sabol — 1964-95 NFL Films
CB/KR/PR Deion Sanders— 1989-93 Atlanta Falcons, 1994 San Francisco 49ers, 1995-99 Dallas Cowboys, 2000 Washington Redskins, 2004-05 Baltimore Ravens
TE Shannon Sharpe — 1990-99, 2002-03 Denver Broncos, 2000-01 Baltimore Ravens
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue — 1989-2006 National Football League
CB/S Aeneas Williams — 1991-2000 Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, 2001-04 St. Louis Rams* *
Contributor George Young — 1968-74 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-97 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
The list of 26 semifinalists will be reduced by mail ballot to 15 modern-era finalists. That list increases to 17 finalist nominees with the inclusion of the two recommended candidates of the Hall of Fame's seniors committee. The seniors committee nominees, who were announced in August, are LB Chris Hanburger, Washington Redskins (1965-78) and LB Les Richter, Los Angeles Rams (1954-62).
The results of the modern-era reduction vote to 15 finalists will be announced in early January 2011.
To be considered for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a nominated player or coach must not have participated as an active player or coach for five consecutive seasons. A contributor, who is a nominee who has made outstanding contributions to pro football in capacities other than playing and coaching, may still be active in his pro football career.
Although there is no set number of enshrinees for any Hall of Fame class, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's ground rules stipulate that from four to seven new members will be selected each year. No more than five modern-era nominees can be elected in a given year and a class of six or seven enshrinees can only be achieved if one or both senior nominees are elected.
The Class of 2011 will be determined at the selection committee's annual meeting on Saturday, Feb. 5, in North Texas the day before Super Bowl XLV. The election results will be announced at 7 p.m. EST during a one-hour NFL Network special, live from the Super Bowl media headquarters.
For the second consecutive year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has teamed up with Van Heusen to ask fans who they think should be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2011 at www.fanschoice.com.
After the first cutdown and nearly 2 million votes, the "Fan's Choice" for the Class of 2011 is in lockstep with the selectors on 10 nominees: Bettis, Brown, Carter, Dawson, Faulk, Greene, Guy, Hayes, Reed and Williams. In addition, fans placed Gary Anderson, Cornelius Bennett, Todd Christensen, Tom Flores, Eddie George, Kent Hull, Chuck Knox, Stanley Morgan, Jim Plunkett, Art Rooney Jr., Donnie Shell, Fred Smerlas, Darryl Talley, Steve Tasker and Dick Vermeil in their top 25.
Launching this week is an exciting new component to the Fan's Choice program — "Smack Talk Your Way to the Super Bowl" — enabling one lucky fan to announce the Fans' Choice for the Class of 2011 on national television in February during Super Bowl week.
The program gives fans the opportunity to make a passionate case for their top choice for the 2011 Class through a 60-second sound bite at fanschoice.com. The winner will be selected by a panel of Hall of Famers and representatives from Phillips-Van Heusen and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.