The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2011 will be voted on during the annual selection meeting held at the site of Super Bowl XLV. The Hall of Fame’s selection committee will meet in Dallas on Saturday, Feb. 5 to elect no fewer than four and no more than seven members with a maximum of five modern-era candidates.
Seven of the 2011 finalists were defensive players. Here are notes on the group.
Dent led the NFL in sacks (17) during the Chicago Bears 1985 Super Bowl championship season. Seven times that year he recorded multi-sack games. In one of those games against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 17, 1985 he also had one of his two interceptions that season. This one he returned for the lone touchdown of his career and the first score of the Bears’ 44-0 blowout victory.
Dent’s personal best for a single game was 4 sacks, a feat he accomplished twice during his 15-year career. Both times were against the Los Angeles Raiders, the first being in his second season in 1984. He matched the output in 1987 in a game where the Bears defense sacked the Raiders QB nine times.
Only eight defensive players have earned Super Bowl Most Valuable Player honors. Dent was only the fifth defensive player to be named Super Bowl MVP in the game’s first 20 years when he received the award in Super Bowl XX after the Bears downed the New England Patriots 46-10.
Doleman had decent success against veteran quarterback Steve DeBerg. He scored his first career touchdown when he picked off DeBerg in a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 14, 1986 and returned it 59 yards for the score. His second pick-six also came against DeBerg when he intercepted a pass and ran it back 27 yards in the Vikings’ 35-7 win over the Bucs on Nov. 8, 1992. Doleman’s second of two career safeties came in a win over the Bucs on Sept. 20, 1992 when he chased DeBerg out of the end zone.
His single-game career high in sacks is 4. He accomplished that total twice, once with the Vikings and once with the 49ers. He dropped Boomer Esiason four times during a 29-21 Minnesota victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Christmas Day 1989. The second was on Oct. 11, 1998 with he sacked Danny Wuerffel three times and Billy Joe Tolliver once during a 31-0 blowout of the New Orleans Saints.
Doleman recorded two or more sacks in a game 35 times and three or more sack eight times during his career. Multiple-sack games usually equated to success for Doleman’s team. His teams were 29-6 in games that he registered more than one sack.
Haley recorded 66.5 of his 100.5 careers sacks while a member of the San Francisco 49ers. The first occurred during his rookie year on Sept. 14, 1986 when he dropped Los Angeles Rams quarterback Steve Bartkowski during a 16-13 loss. His last came more than 13 years later when he rejoined the 49ers for one final season. He sacked Atlanta Falcons QB Chris Chandler during a 49ers 27-7 victory on Dec. 12 1999.
Although Haley posed a huge threat to opposing quarterbacks during his career, he only had one safety during his 12 NFL seasons. On Oct. 24, 1988 Haley sacked Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon in the end zone during the third quarter of a hard-fought game.
Haley had a knack for racking up sacks in large chunks. His career high for sacks came in on Sept. 4, 1994 on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Haley sacked Steelers QB Neil O’Donnell four times during San Fran’s 26-9 kickoff weekend victory. The game also marked one of six games in which he recorded three or more sacks. Haley totaled 22 multi-sack games during his career.
Hanburger intercepted 19 passes during his career. His first of two interceptions returned for touchdowns came in a home game against the Dallas Cowboys on Nov. 17, 1968. He picked off the Cowboys’ Craig Morton late in the game and ran it back 30 yards.
His second and last pick-six of his career came on Nov. 5, 1972 against the New York Jets at Shea Stadium. He stepped in front of pass thrown just after the two-minute warning by future Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath intended for running back Emerson Boozer. Hanburger raced 41 yards to the end zone. His TD put his team out in front 21-10 after the extra point. On the very next series, he again picked off Namath. This time he returned it 12 yards before he was pushed out of bounds. The Redskins downed the Jets 35-17 that day.
He was known to make big plays that often changed the momentum of a game. Three such plays came on returns of fumbles for touchdowns, which was a NFL record at the time of his retirement. Hanburger’s fumble returns all came against division rivals. The first occurred on Dec. 21, 1969 when his 19-yard fumble return for a score was the Redskins only touchdown in a 20-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Two years later on Sept. 19, 1971, he recovered a fumble midway through the third quarter and returned it 16 yards to give Washington a 14-10 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Redskins won the game at Busch Stadium by a score of 24-17. Hanburger’s recovery of a Roman Gabriel fumble in the end zone early in the third quarter on Nov. 10, 1974 helped change the momentum of the game and fueled the Redskins’ come-from-behind 27-20 road win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Kennedy registered 11 multi-sack games in his 11-year playing career. The most sacks he tallied in one game were three against the New England Patriots in 1992 and the Green Bay Packers in 1999. Both games were Seahawks wins, 10-7 and 27-7, respectively.
In 1992, despite the Seattle Seahawks’ woeful 2-14 record, Kennedy was awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. He became only the third in NFL history to win the Defensive MVP award while playing on a team with a losing record. The others include a pair of Hall of Famers who won the honor during strike-shortened seasons (Lawrence Taylor, New York Giants, 1982, 4-5; and Reggie White, Philadelphia Eagles, 1987, 7-8).
Cortez intercepted three passes during his career. All three of them came in his final two seasons. In 1999, he came up with his first career pick against the San Diego Chargers on Oct. 17 and followed that up three weeks later with an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 7. His final career interception came on Dec. 3, 2000 when he picked off Doug Johnson of the Atlanta Falcons and returned it 14 yards.
Richter was regarded as one of the roughest players in the NFL during his career. He fought through several significant injuries without missing any action. Examples included suffering 14 stitches after being hit in the head with a helmet during a skirmish with the Baltimore Colts; playing six preseason games and all 12 regular season games with torn cartilage in his knee in 1958; and playing through a broken cheekbone in 1961.
He handled the Rams place-kicking duties during his first three seasons. He only missed three extra points in 109 career attempts and converted 29 field goals. He was L.A.’s leading scorer in 1955 and 1956.
He was regarded as one of the major team leaders in 1955 when the Rams won the NFL’s Western Conference with an 8-3-1 mark. Aside from serving as the defensive “quarterback” he tied a then team record with 13 field goals including his conversion of the last seven three-point attempts that year. He kicked a 33-yard, game-winning field goal in the closing seconds against the Pittsburgh Steelers to give the Rams a win in what was described as the team’s “most thrilling” game of the year.
Sanders scored his very first TD in his first-ever NFL game. He returned a punt 68 yards for TD against the Los Angeles Rams in his pro football debut on Sept. 10, 1989. His spectacular play came just five days after he hit a homerun for the New York Yankees in the fourth inning against Jerry Reed of the Seattle Mariners. In doing so, he became the only modern athlete to score a TD and hit a homerun in the same week.
His lone career sack occurred on Sept. 22, 1991 against the Los Angeles Raiders. Sanders blitzed quarterback Jay Schroeder early in the game. He forced the ball loose which was recovered and returned for an 18-yard touchdown by LB Jessie Tuggle. Atlanta won 21-17.
Sanders is the only player in Super Bowl history to have both a reception and an interception in a Super Bowl. He hauled in a 47-yard pass from quarterback Troy Aikman in the first quarter of the Dallas Cowboys 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX. One year earlier, in the San Francisco 49ers 49-26 win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, he picked off Gale Gilbert in the fourth quarter and returned it 15 yards.
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