NEW YORK – Maybe Saturday’s first-ballot election of Seattle Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones as one of five modern-era entrants into the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame class will prove an early sign of Super Bowl XLVIII karma for Seattle when Jones’ franchise duels the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
The most dominant player in Seattle’s 38-year existence heads the Class of 2014 that includes Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, Buffalo Bills receiver Andre Reed and Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals cornerback Aeneas Williams. Punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey made it as senior members as well.
Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowler during his 12-season career, and Brooks, an 11-time Pro Bower during his 14-season career, were two among five first-time finalists.
“Thought of tonight is JOY, HUMILITY, and gratefulness, I’m in the Hall of Fame now,” Brooks said on his official Twitter account.
Players required 80% of the vote among the 46-member selection committee that met for 8 1/2 hours.
Jones is considered among the best left tackles to play. The 6-5, 300 Jones was a first-team selection on the league’s 2000s All-Decade team, paving the way for Seattle to reach Super Bowl XL. Mike Holmgren called Jones the best offensive player he ever had, high praise considering Holmgren coached Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, HOF receiver Jerry Rice and former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre.
Jones joins receiver Steve Largent, Class of 1995, as the second player to spend his entire career with the Seahawks to be elected in his first year of eligibility.
Brooks is considered one of the most versatile linebackers to play.
“Derrick was an unbelievable athlete who could stop the run and stop the pass equally well,” former Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez told USA TODAY Sports.
Brooks was named 2002 Defensive Player of the Year, capping that season by returning an interception 44 yards for a touchdown in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl XXXVII whipping of the Oakland Raiders. Brooks never missed a game during his career, intercepting 25 passes, returning six for touchdowns, forcing 24 fumbles and notching 13 1/2 sacks.
Among the noted snubs was former Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, whose 1,102 catches and 128 touchdowns were more than fellow receivers Reed and eight-time finalist Tim Brown.
Also missing out In his fifth consecutive year as a finalist was former San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley, who finished with 100 1/2 sacks, including a season-high 16 in 1990. Haley is the only player to be on five Super Bowl winners.
Reed finally made it in his ninth year as a finalist.
“He’s tremendously deserving,” Reed’s Hall-of-Fame coach Marv Levy told USA TODAY Sports. “I don’t think there was a tougher receiver going across the middle.
“They called him ‘YAK.’ And that wasn’t a nickname for how much he talked. It was for how many yards he gained after the catch.”
The seven-time Pro Bowler was Hall-of-Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s go-to slot receiver. His 951 career receptions (87 TDs) were third most all-time when he retired after the 2000 season. Reed and Kelly combined for 663 of those receptions and the former Kutztown State receiver finished with 13,198 yards.
Strahan narrowly missed induction last year when he made the cut to the final 10 only to get eliminated. The 1993 second-round draft selection still holds the single-season record for most sacks with 22 1/2 in 2001. His 141 1/2 career sacks are fifth-most all time.
“Michael Strahan is the epitome of a Hall of Famer,” former Giants center Shaun O’Hara told USA TODAY Sports. “If Michael didn’t deserve the Hall, nobody does.”
The franchise’s all-time sack leader was a stout run stopper and set a locker-room tone of accountability by grooming successors Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora.
“They’re carrying on his legacy,” O’Hara said. “That’s a Hall of Famer.”
In 14 seasons for some lowly Cardinals teams, Williams, an eight-time Pro Bowler, notched 55 career interceptions and was a member of the 1990s all-decade team.
Guy coined the term “Hang time” with his booming kicks. A seven-time Pro Bowler during his 14-season career and a seven-time finalist, Guy is the first punter to be selected in the
first round of the draft – 23rd overall by the 1973 Raiders. He averaged 42.4 yards and the led the league in punting three times. He averaged 41.9 yards for three Raiders Super Bowl-winning teams.
Former Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Humphrey notched 122 sacks in 171 career games during his 13-season career, and his 14 1/2 sacks helped the Eagles reach Super Bowl XV.