DeMarcus Ware, Andre Johnson, and Devin Hester are all finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2022, despite the fact that they are all in their first year of eligibility.
On Jan. 18, the selection committee will assess 15 modern-day players, including tackle Tony Boselli, who is in his sixth year as a finalist, and defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who is in his fourth year.
Safety Leroy Butler, wide receivers Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne, and linebackers Sam Mills and Zach Thomas are among the other finalists announced Thursday. They are all three-time finalists; defensive linemen Jared Allen and Bryant Young, as well as cornerback Ronde Barber, are two-time finalists; and tackle Willie Anderson and linebacker Patrick Willis are first-time finalists.
In August, a maximum of five modern-day players can be elected to the Canton, Ohio, hall of fame. The inductees will be revealed on Feb. 10 at NFL Honors, a prime-time television show in which The Associated Press announces its individual award winners for the 2021 season.
Three others are also contenders for the class of 2022: Dick Vermeil as a coach, Art McNally as a contributor, and Cliff Branch as a senior player. Each of those three will be voted on separately.
Hester is one of the few finalists who has primarily contributed on special teams. He kicked off the 2007 Super Bowl for Chicago with a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which is the only time that has ever happened in Super Bowl history. Hester was a three-time All-Pro and one of two return specialists on the NFL’s 100 All-Time Team. He was also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s.
Thomas, a five-time All-Pro, was also a mainstay on special teams for Miami and established himself as one of the best tacklers in the game as a standout linebacker from 1996 to 2008, when the position was at its peak.
In recent years, Boselli has been part of a strong group of offensive lineman who have been considered for the Hall of Fame. The former Jaguars standout was preceded into the hall by Kevin Mawae, Steve Hutchinson, and Alan Faneca. Despite barely playing half of the decade, Boselli was named to the All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
Butler, like Boselli, is in his 16th season of eligibility. The Packers’ hard-hitting safety, a four-time All-Pro who also made the 1990s All-Decade Team, was one of the game’s most versatile defensive backs.
Mills is being considered as a modern-day candidate in his 20th and last year of eligibility. Mills, a three-time All-Pro who began his career in the USFL, went on to excel for the Saints and the Panthers, taking the latter to the NFC championship game in just their second season.
Ware was a four-time All-Pro who led the Cowboys in sacks for eight seasons, led the NFL in sacks with 20 in 2008 and 15 1/2 in 2010, and won a Super Bowl with Denver in 2015. With 138 1/2 sacks, he was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Johnson, the only first-year eligible player in the final 15, was named to the All-Pro team twice during a period when wide receivers were in high demand. He topped the league in receptions and receiving yards twice (103 in 2006 and 115 in 2008). (1,575 yards in 2008 and 1,569 yards in 2009). Johnson had 1,062 receptions for 14,185 yards and 70 receiving touchdowns in his career.
Holt and Wayne, two of his contemporaries, are also in the finals. Holt was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s and led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 1999. Wayne won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts and retired as the NFL’s second all-time top receiver in the postseason with 93 catches.
Anderson spent 13 pro seasons with Cincinnati and Baltimore, where he was regarded as one of the best right tackles in the game, earning three All-Pro teams.
Exceptional pass rusher Allen, who played for the Chiefs, Vikings, Bears, and Panthers, was a four-time All-Pro who led the NFL in sacks twice (2007, 2011). Seymour was a three-time All-Pro who was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s. He appeared in four Super Bowls for the Patriots. Young won the 1999 Comeback Player of the Year award and had 89 1/2 career sacks for the 49ers, earning him a spot on the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team.
Willis’ first season with the 49ers, in 2007, was his final season with the team, and he was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was a five-time All-Pro and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team in the 2010s.