Ninety-four preliminary nominees have been announced for the NFL Hall of Fame, and Alabama is represented well with two all-stars from the 80s and late 90s.
Cornelius Bennett was terrifying. The rare outside linebacker that played the run and hit like an inside guy, an exceptional first step to match country-boy strength, and a monster off the edge as a pass-rusher, Biscuit did it all.
He was exceptionally healthy for such a physical player, starting 204 games out of 206 opportunities. To that number, he added another 20 starts in the playoffs out of 21 games. As a pro he picked up 7 INTs, scored three TDs, forced 31 fumbles, tallied 1048 solo tackles (142 assists,) and is 78th on the all-time list with 71.5 sacks.
He is best known for his hold out with Indianapolis (where he would ironically end his playing career,) then later as a stalwart for the Buffalo Bills, where he won four AFC Championship and was a first-team all-pro five times. He was a six-time pro-bowler, a seven-time all-AFC performer, and was named to the All-90’s NFL team.
Like several backs nominated in this year’s class, Shaun Alexander did not have a long pro career. However, he made the very best of his eight seasons in the league.
The Kentucky native scored 100 TDs on the ground, additing another 12 through the air, where his soft hands were an asset in college and the pros. He was a five-time all-pro, making three Pro Bowls, and was the league MVP in 2005, when he had 1958 yards from scrimmage, including 1880 yards rushing for 27 TDs. Alexander hit 9453 yards rushing, averaging nearly four-and-a-half per carry for his career, taking the moribund Seahawks to four playoffs in five years.
Alexander was traded to the Redskins his final season, and sat on the roster without participating, before seeking a trade back to Seattle, where he would retire the team for whom he had spent his entire career. He was named to the NFL’s all-2000’s team.
The cerebral gentleman from Florence, KY was Mr. Football in that state, a Parade All-American, and the No. 1 running back recruit when he pledged to the Tide. To this day, Alexander holds records for the most rushing yards in a game, most rushing yards by a freshman, and collected thirteen other records by the time graduated. He was a Heisman candidate and two-time All-SEC at Alabama.
The complete nominees, which will be pared down to 25 before a final vote, are:
QUARTERBACKS — Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Phil Simms, Kurt Warner
RUNNING BACKS — Shaun Alexander, Ottis Anderson, Tiki Barber, Larry Centers, Roger Craig, Terrell Davis, Eddie George, Edgerrin James, Daryl Johnston, Eric Metcalf (also WR/PR/KR), LaDainian Tomlinson, Herschel Walker (also KR), Ricky Watters
WIDE RECEIVERS — Isaac Bruce, Henry Ellard (also PR), Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason (also KR/PR), Terrell Owens, Sterling Sharpe, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Hines Ward
TIGHT END — Mark Bavaro
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — Tony Boselli (T), Ray Donaldson (C), Alan Faneca (G), Jay Hilgenberg (C), Chris Hinton (G/T), Kent Hull (C), Joe Jacoby (T), Mike Kenn (T), Olin Kreutz (C), Jim Lachey (T), Kevin Mawae (C/G), Tom Nalen (C), Nate Newton (G), Steve Wisniewski (G)
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN — Leslie O'Neal (DE), Simeon Rice (DE), Fred Smerlas (NT), Jason Taylor (DE), Bryant Young (DT)
LINEBACKERS — Carl Banks, Cornelius Bennett, Tedy Bruschi, Seth Joyner, Levon Kirkland, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest (also DE), Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, Joey Porter, Zach Thomas
DEFENSIVE BACKS — Eric Allen (CB), Steve Atwater (S), Joey Browner (S), LeRoy Butler (S), Brian Dawkins (SS), Rodney Harrison (S), Ty Law (CB), Albert Lewis (CB), John Lynch (S), Frank Minnifield (CB), Bob Sanders (SS), Darren Sharper (FS), Dennis Smith (SS), Troy Vincent (S), Everson Walls (CB), Darren Woodson (S)
KICKERS/PUNTER — Morten Andersen (K), Gary Anderson (K), Sean Landeta (P), Nick Lowery (K)
SPECIAL TEAMS — Brian Mitchell (KR/PR also RB), Steve Tasker (ST also WR)
COACHES (11) — Don Coryell, Bill Cowher, Tom Flores, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Buddy Parker, Richie Petitbon, Dan Reeves, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil
There are a few that I think are probable entrants, though not all this year. Kent Hull, Nate Newton, Tony Boselli, and Steve Wisniewski on the OL; Don Coryell and Dick Vermeil at coach/founders, and, it’s hard to keep Jimmy Johnson out as well; Sam Mills and Zach Thomas at LB; Doug Flutie at QB (maybe Randall Cunningham and fringe candidate, Kurt Warner;) Steve Atwater seems a lock at safety, while Eric Allen is the class of the CBs (with a nod to Ty Law;) finally, we should give a nod to Mssrs Andersen/Anderson at PK.
Shaun Alexander and Biscuit will be competitive, to be sure. But, we’ll have to wait until November for the first cuts. Terrell Davis is a name to watch too: While not having the longest career, he was an unstoppable force. This is a scenario facing Ladanian Thomlinson as well. For pure moxy, Steve Tasker was as versatile a player as they come, and he utterly redefined special teams play. Is that enough, or will he have to settle for an award later named in his honor?