Headlined by former Florida State and Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks, the 16-member College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016 was officially announced Friday on ESPNU from Scottsdale, Arizona.
Along with Brooks, 13 additional players and two coaches were revealed as inductees, and they will officially be enshrined Dec. 6, 2016 in New York City:
|College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016|
|Derrick Brooks||Florida State||LB|
|Tom Cousineau||Ohio State||LB|
|Troy Davis||Iowa State||RB|
|William Fuller||North Carolina||DT|
|Mike Utley||Washington State||OG|
|Bill Bowes||New Hampshire||Coach|
The 42-year-old Brooks played for the Seminoles from 1991 to 1994 before the Bucs selected him with the No. 28 overall pick in the 1995 NFL draft.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer was a two-time first-team All-American, and he led FSU to the 1993 national championship by virtue of an Orange Bowl victory over Nebraska.
Brooks' inclusion in the Class of 2016 was no surprise, and he received congratulations from many for the honor, including ESPN's Anthony Becht, who was Brooks' teammate with the Buccaneers from 2005 to 2007:
Anthony Becht @Anthony_Becht
Congrats to @DBrooks55 Well deserved👊🏻 https://t.co/sMaSanme7P2016-1-7 18:04:43
Brooks is joined by another Pro Football Hall of Famer from the defensive side of the ball in the Class of 2016, Purdue's Rod Woodson.
The 1987 No. 10 overall draft pick made 11 Pro Bowls in 17 NFL seasons, primarily with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, but he also excelled as a cornerback, safety and return man for the Boilermakers.
Per Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman, Woodson still holds 13 Purdue records.
Not every huge name made it into the Hall of Fame, though, as former SMU running back and Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson was omitted, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, despite rushing for 4,450 yards and 47 touchdowns in his collegiate career.
While Brooks and Woodson were among the biggest names announced Friday, former Nebraska-Omaha quarterback Marlin Briscoe was perhaps the most historically significant.
Briscoe threw for 5,114 yards in his collegiate career with the then-NAIA school before the Denver Broncos took him with the 357th overall selection in the 1968 NFL/AFL draft.
He went on to play nine seasons between the AFL and the NFL, doing most of his damage at wide receiver, although he was a trailblazer for black quarterbacks as well, according to Mike Ferguson of the Ledger:
Mike Ferguson @MikeWFerguson
Marlin Briscoe was one of NFL's first black starting quarterbacks. Won two Super Bowls with the #Dolphins as a WR. https://t.co/R3bKqWf9Nv2016-1-7 17:24:16
Randall Cunningham was among those who Briscoe paved the way for, so it is fitting that they are 2016 Hall of Fame classmates.
Few signal-callers produced more spectacular highlights during their collegiate and professional careers than Cunningham. He was a four-time Pro Bowler in his 16-year career, primarily with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Minnesota Vikings, and a three-time Bert Bell Award winner, which is given to the NFL Player of the Year, but it all started at UNLV.
Cunningham still holds Rebels records with 8,020 passing yards and 59 touchdown passes during his three-year tenure at UNLV from 1982 to 1984.
As great as Cunningham was under center, he was arguably an equally strong punter, averaging 45.6 yards per kick at UNLV and garnering two All-America selections at the position.
The 52-year-old Cunningham continues to have an impact on current players 14 years after his NFL retirement, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback and Rookie of the Year candidate Jameis Winston, per Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.
"I just fell in love with him," Winston said. "I liked Randall Cunningham [because] what he brought to the game [was] excitement."
The entire College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2016 left an indelible mark on the game, and it is difficult to argue against any of them taking their place in Atlanta later this year.
Much of the focus in Arizona is currently on the upcoming national championship game between No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama, and one can only assume that being surrounded by some of the greatest players in college football history will serve as further motivation to perform well and perhaps join them in the Hall one day.
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