A punter — Oakland Raider Ray Guy — has finally been selected for induction in the NFL Hall of Fame, possibly lowering ever so slightly an unspoken barrier for specialists that only one kicker (Jan Stenerud) had cleared.
The result could point to an improved chance for Bears returner Devin Hester to earn inclusion five years from whenever his distinguished career concludes.
The 2014 class also includes the first Hall of Fame player coached by Lovie Smith: linebacker Derrick Brooks, who played for Smith from 1996-2000 when Smith was the Tampa Bay linebackers coach.
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Guy is joined in the Class of 2014 by Brooks, New York Giants defensive ends Claude Humphrey and Michael Strahan, tackle Walter Jones, wide receiver Andre Reed and cornerback Aeneas Williams.
Guy and Stenerud are the only exclusively non-position players in the Hall of Fame. George Blanda, Lou Groza and Paul Hornung were placekickers but also were starters at positions on offense.
Hester has been an occasional wide receiver and cornerback but only for abbreviated stretches.
Brooks was Smith’s ideal for weakside linebackers stemming from his time as linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, beginning with Brooks’ second NFL season. Brooks never missed a game during his 14-season career with the Buccaneers. A six-time All-Pro selection and member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, he was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2002.
Guy spent his entire 14-season career with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and was named All-Pro six straight years.
Humphrey was named first-team All-Pro five times and earned six Pro Bowl nods during his career with the Atlanta Falcons (1968-1978) and Philadelphia Eagles (1979-1981). Although not an official statistic at the time, he is credited with 122 career sacks.
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Jones stepped into a starting role as a rookie and excelled as one of the game’s finest tackles during his 12 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. A member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s, he was named All-Pro six times and voted to nine Pro Bowls.
Reed caught 951 passes for 13,198 yards and 87 touchdowns in his 16-season career. He hauled in 50 or more passes in 13 seasons, which ranked second at the time of his retirement.
Strahan recorded double-digit sack totals six times in a nine-season span including a NFL single-season record 22.5 sacks in 2001. A five-time All-Pro pick, he amassed 141.5 sacks in his 15-season career with the New York Giants.
Williams, a four-time All-Pro and eight-time Pro Bowl selection, intercepted 55 passes for 807 yards and 9 touchdowns during a 14-season career with the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.
The first order of business for the Selection Committee at Saturday’s meeting was to discuss and debate the merits of the two Seniors Finalists, Guy and Humphrey. Both candidates were required to receive at least an 80 percent positive vote to earn election.
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Next the selection committee presented and reviewed the 15 modern-era candidates that included two cutdowns in the process. The first cut of finalists was from 15 to 10. The five eliminated from consideration at that point were Morten Andersen, Tim Brown, Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., Tony Dungy and John Lynch. After one last round of discussion, the final 10 finalists were reduced to five. Removed at that point were Jerome Bettis, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Marvin Harrison, and Will Shields.
All five of the remaining finalists — Brooks, Jones, Reed, Strahan, and Williams — then were voted on individually and received the necessary 80 percent positive vote from the Selection Committee to be elected.
Representatives of the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche tabulated all votes during the meeting.