Pro Football Hall of Fame 2021: Complete List of NFL Inductees to Canton
As the NFL celebrated the top performers from the 2020 season, the Pro Football Hall of Fame revealed its newest inductees.
Fifteen finalists were selected from the modern era on Jan. 5, and three candidates came through the Coach, Contributor and Senior categories.
Here's a brief overview for the legends who will be entering the Hall.
Teams: Pittsburgh Steelers (1998-2007), New York Jets (2008-09), Arizona Cardinals (2010)
Accolades: Nine-time Pro Bowler; six-time All-Pro; Super Bowl XL champion
Offensive linemen generally don't get a ton of glory, and that's especially true for those who play on the interior of the line. For a decade, Alan Faneca did the dirty work inside for the Pittsburgh Steelers before enjoying brief spells with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals to conclude his career.
The 44-year-old has waited patiently for the call from Hall of Fame President David Baker. This was his sixth year as a finalist. Eventually, his resume would be too good to ignore.
"Faneca has been especially durable and started every regular-season game during the decade," the Hall of Fame wrote when naming him a first-team guard for its 2000s All-Decade squad. "He helped anchor lines that helped the Steelers (2001) and the Jets (2009) lead the NFL in rushing."
Teams: Oakland Raiders (1960-66), Buffalo Bills (1967-69), Kansas City Chiefs (1969)
Accolades: 1966 Pro Bowler; four-time Super Bowl champion (one as a player, three as a coach)
Tom Flores spent nine years in the AFL as a player, throwing for 11,959 yards and 92 touchdowns. He twice led the league in yards per completion.
Flores' coaching career helped propel him to the Hall of Fame.
The 83-year-old was a member of the Oakland Raiders' staff when the team won Super Bowl XI under the guidance of John Madden. He subsequently succeeded Madden in 1979 and took the Raiders to two more championships.
ESPN's Jeff Legwold noted Flores is only the second person in NFL history alongside Mike Ditka to win a Super Bowl as a player, assistant coach and head coach.
Teams: Detroit Lions (2007-15)
Accolades: Six-time Pro Bowler; three-time All-Pro
Calvin Johnson's career totals don't jump off the page in a Hall of Fame context. The 35-year-old is 47th in receptions (731), 32nd in receiving yards (11,619) and 23rd in touchdown receptions (83).
Looking at his overall numbers only tells part of the story, though.
Johnson only spent nine seasons in the league, abruptly walking away during the 2016 offseason. The Detroit Lions' futility was a factor in his decision, as was the general wear and tear he had put on his body.
Make no mistake, Megatron was a HOF-caliber wideout. He twice led the NFL in receiving yards, and his 86.1 yards per game rank second behind Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones.
Johnson isn't a direct parallel to Barry Sanders because Sanders retired within striking distance of Walter Payton's all-time rushing record. His standing among the greats wasn't in doubt.
In the case of both players, though, Lions fans were left to wonder what might have been if the front office had assembled a better roster around the offensive dynamos.
Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2003), Denver Broncos (2004-07)
Accolades: Nine-time Pro Bowler; two-time All-Pro; Super Bowl XXXVII champion
For nearly a decade, John Lynch has been eagerly anticipating the moment he would be told he's a Hall of Famer. The legendary safety has been on the ballot for nine years and a finalist on eight occasions. Now, the 49-year-old can start making room in his closet for a gold jacket.
Lynch's time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have been good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame eventually. He was a key contributor on what was one of the NFL's most dominant defenses from the late 1990s through the early 2000s.
His four-year run with the Denver Broncos put him over the top. He was a Pro Bowler in each of those seasons and helped the team reach the AFC Championship Game in 2005.
Teams: Indianapolis Colts (1998-2011), Denver Broncos (2012-15)
Accolades: 14-time Pro Bowler; seven-time All-Pro; five-time MVP; two-time Offensive Player of the Year; 2012 Comeback Player of the Year; Super Bowl XLI, 50 champion
From the moment his career ended after the Denver Broncos' win in Super Bowl 50, Peyton Manning was a lock for the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. He was a Hall of Famer on the basis of his 13 years with the Indianapolis Colts, and his four-year run in Denver padded his already-sizable legacy.
In 2013, he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, both of which remain single-season records. He was 37 and enjoying the most prolific year through the air in NFL history. And he did it a few years after it looked like his career was in jeopardy due to multiple neck surgeries.
By the time all was said and done, Manning finished with 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns. Those were the all-time marks when he retired but have since been bested by Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
Brady's six Super Bowl rings probably end any discussion about the greatest quarterback of all time, but Manning may have done more to single-handedly redefine the position.
Bill Nunn officially joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as a scout in 1970, and he helped the franchise build a dynasty across the subsequent decade.
In running down his resume, the Hall of Fame wrote how Nunn was a driving force behind the selection of John Stallworth, Mel Blount and Donnie Shell from historically Black colleges and universities. He also scouted Jack Lambert at Kent State. Those four players all have Hall of Fame busts.
Beyond honoring Nunn, his selection will make more fans aware of how much his work factored into Pittsburgh's four championships during the 1970s. He remained with the Steelers as they lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 2005 and 2008.
Team: Dallas Cowboys (1973-83)
Accolades: Three-time Pro Bowler; three-time All-Pro; Super Bowl XII champion
Before Michael Irvin, Dez Bryant or CeeDee Lamb, Drew Pearson was synonymous with the No. 88 jersey for the Dallas Cowboys.
Pearson set a blistering pace to start his career, racking up three All-Pro nods through his first five years. He finished with 489 receptions for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns.
Pearson was also on the receiving end for one of the NFL's most memorable desperation heaves, hauling in a 50-yard touchdown pass against the Minnesota Vikings in the 1975 NFC Divisional Round. He made the phrase "Hail Mary" part of football vernacular.
The 70-year-old helped the Cowboys continue to be a perennial championship threat, appearing in 22 playoff games over 11 seasons. He lifted the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Dallas defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII.
Teams: Oakland Raiders (1998-2005; 2013-15), Green Bay Packers (2006-12)
Accolades: Nine-time Pro Bowler; four-time All-Pro; 1998 Defensive Rookie of the Year; 2009 Defensive Player of the Year; Super Bowl XLV champion
Through his first four years, Charles Woodson seemed to be on a special track. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time All-Pro and the 1998 Defensive Rookie of the Year. It wasn't until 2008 that he made his next Pro Bowl appearance, though.
Toward the end of his first run in the Bay Area, his reputation was outpacing his performance.
Things changed when he joined the Green Bay Packers in 2006. The 1997 Heisman Trophy winner reasserted himself as one of the league's best cornerbacks, leading the NFL in interceptions in 2009 and 2011.
When the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl in 2010, they had a solid offense led by Aaron Rodgers. Thanks in part to Woodson's contributors, the defense was even better. The team allowed the fifth-fewest passing yards that season.