When the class of 2014 is inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame, seven players will forever be immortalized as greats of the game.
But who are these men? Why are they deserving of football's greatest honor?
Let's get to know the inductees.
The only surprising aspect of this selection was that it happened this year, not last. Michael Strahan was a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-Team All-Pro who won the 2001 AP Defensive Player of the Year award after finishing with 22.5 sacks (an NFL record) and six forced fumbles.
The NFL on ESPN Twitter account relived his famous sack of Brett Favre to set the record:
Strahan finished his career fifth in sacks all time with 141.5, trailing only Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198), Kevin Greene (168) and Chris Doleman (150.5). He was one of the most fearsome defensive players in his day and is one of the highlights of this class.
While Andre Reed was often overshadowed by Jerry Rice in his heyday, he was still one of the top wide receivers to ever step foot onto an NFL field. The seven-time Pro Bowler is 11th in receptions (951), 13th in receiving yards (13,198) and 12th in receiving touchdowns (87). Reed was also a major part of the Buffalo Bills teams that reached four straight Super Bowls, albeit never winning one.
His career was marked by consistency and reliability, and his inclusion into the Hall of Fame has been a long time coming (even if some may question how Marvin Harrison, a receiver with superior numbers, didn't manage to get into the Hall this year).
Arguably the greatest left tackle of all time, Walter Jones is a nine-time Pro Bowler and four-time First-Team All-Pro who spent his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks. Perhaps former NFL defensive lineman and current ESPN analyst Marcellus Wiley can tell you all you need to know about Jones:
What else do you need to hear?
For 14 seasons, Derrick Brooks terrorized opposing offenses. His 11 Pro Bowl selections and five First-Team All-Pro selections are a testament to that fact. Brooks had 84 or more tackles 10 times in his career, and his intelligence and athleticism helped changed the linebacker position in Tampa Bay's vaunted Cover 2 defense.
His former teammate, Warren Sapp, had nothing but the highest of praise for Brooks, as per Fred Goodall of The Associated Press (via The Sacramento Bee): "People ask me all the time, who was the best? Brooks was. He could touch every person on your team and they'd walk away feeling like: 'Oh yeah, I'm going to follow him and go through the wall.' He's the greatest outside linebacker that never rushed the passer. Period. It's not even close."
Aeneas Williams wasn't as big of a name as some of the former players mentioned, but he was quietly one of the best cornerbacks of the '90s (and he was a pretty solid safety to close his career, too). He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro who finished his career with 55 interceptions and 23 fumble recoveries.
His nine interceptions returned for touchdowns are fourth all time, tying him with Deion Sanders and Ken Houston, and his 268 yards after fumble recoveries are second all time behind only DeAngelo Hall. The Arizona Cardinal and St. Louis Ram knew how to help his team after taking the ball away, that much is for certain.
It's taken Claude Humphrey over 30 years, but he's finally been granted his spot in the Hall of Fame.
The six-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro also won the 1968 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award for the Atlanta Falcons (he'd finish his career with the Philadelphia Eagles). In his 13 years in the NFL, he was one of the league's most fearsome defensive linemen.
Finally, a punter is in the Hall of Fame.
The seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro led the NFL in yards per punt three times in his career and is widely regarded as the greatest punter of all time (relative to his time period, at least). So good was Ray Guy at his craft that the Oakland Raiders made him the 23rd overall pick of the 1973 NFL draft, a selection they never regretted.
His inclusion into the Hall has been long overdue.
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