2015 Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductees: Breaking Down This Year's Class

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2015

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Jerome Bettis slips into his gold jacket with help from presenter, brother John Bettis III, rear, during the Gold Jacket Ceremony in Canton, Ohio, Thurdsday, August 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

For fans who grew up watching football in the '90s, the 2015 Hall of Fame class is stacked with some of the most dynamic and memorable players of that decade. From a running back who bowled over defenders to the defensive end who has a Super Bowl ring for every finger on one hand, this year's class is truly special.

Let's break down the players who comprise it.

 

Jerome Bettis, RB, Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams (1993-95), Pittsburgh Steelers (1996-2005)

Jordan Strauss/Associated Press

Few bruising backs were as fun to watch as Jerome Bettis. Aptly nicknamed The Bus for his downhill, powerful style, Bettis separated himself by being surprisingly nimble and shifty for a man his size. It's no wonder he rushed for 13,662 rushing yards and 91 rushing touchdowns in his career. 

Basically, Marshawn Lynch is the Bettis of this current era. 

Bettis was a Super Bowl champion himself, along with being the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1993 and the Comeback Player of the Year in 1996. As Hall of Fame voter Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette told Tab Douglas Sunday in February, via CBS Pittsburgh, Bettis was a deserved selection:

He had knockout stats, a knockout career, everything you wanted in a Hall of Famer, he had it. Super Bowl, inspiration, played hurt, consistency, didn’t fumble, and he had the stats.

Sometimes people want to turn that into a negative, like ‘well, he should have had all those yards, he had all those carries.’ Yeah, and every carry, a blow was delivered somewhere unless he ran untouched into the end zone because all those yards, all those carries, those were tough yards. He should be celebrated for lasting that long.

Indeed, The Bus finally rolls into Canton. It was quite the ride.

 

Tim Brown, WR, Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1988-2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Few players were as fun to watch in their prime as Tim Brown, a mainstay at wideout for the Oakland Raiders who also was a threat when he was allowed to return punts for the team. He's fifth all-time with 1,094 receptions, but it was his ability to make plays after those catches that made him one of the best offensive weapons of his generation and helped him accumulate 100 receiving touchdowns in his career. 

"I call him 'The Natural,'" his former coach with the Raiders, Jon Gruden, told Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News. "You name a coach, you name a system, he's flourished in all of them. He could adapt to Santa Claus calling the plays."

And much like Santa Claus on his sleigh passing out gifts on Christmas Eve, Brown always seemed to take it to the house.

 

Charles Haley, DE, San Francisco 49ers (1986-1991; 1998-99), Dallas Cowboys (1992-96)

Charles Haley is the only player in NFL history with five Super Bowl rings. So he's got that going for him. 

He also finished his career with 100.5 sacks and 485 tackles, so it's safe to say he played a huge role in each and every one of those Super Bowl titles. 

 

Junior Seau, LB, San Diego Chargers (1990-2002), Miami Dolphins (2003-05), New England Patriots (2006-09)

Junior Seau's suicide after football was tragic, but he was a magical player during his NFL career, going to 12 Pro Bowls and being voted to the Associated Press All-NFL first team six times. He had at least 75 tackles in his first 12 seasons and eclipsed the 100-tackle mark seven times in his career. 

His 56.5 career sacks is also an excellent number for a middle linebacker, showing his true versatility as a player. He was a force to be reckoned with in the middle of San Diego's defense and truly one of the best linebackers of a generation. 

 

Will Shields, G, Kansas City Chiefs (1993-2006)

Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields during the 2007 Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii on February 10, 2007.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Will Shields didn't play a glamor position, but he was certainly respected around the league and was voted to the Pro Bowl a whopping 12 times. Only Tony Gonzalez (14), Peyton Manning (14)Bruce Matthews (14)Merlin Olsen (14)Jerry Rice (13), Reggie White (13) and Ray Lewis (13) were voted to the game more times.

 

Mick Tingelhoff, C, Minnesota Vikings (1962-1978)

Mick Tingelhoff was the Seniors Committee selection, and his inclusion is an amazing example of how much the game has changed. Tingelhoff played the game as a 6'2", 240-pound center. These days, he would be considered the right weight and height for a middle linebacker. 

But Tingelhoff started an incredible 259 consecutive games. Only Brett Favre and Jim Marshall played more consecutive games. For a player at such a grueling position, that streak is truly remarkable.  

 

Contributors: Bill Polian and Ron Wolf

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Both Bill Polian and Ron Wolf were two of the best team-builders of their generations. Polian spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, turning the Bills into a team that would reach four straight Super Bowls and the Colts into a perennial Super Bowl contender. 

Wolf famously orchestrated the trade that brought Favre to the Green Bay Packers, but he also surrounded Favre with a ton of talent in his time with the team. He was also a revered scout for Oakland.

 

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