On to the Class of 2014

On to the Class of 2014

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Just two weeks removed from the enshrinement of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013, the first major step in electing the Class of 2014 takes place on Wednesday.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Seniors Committee, a subcommittee of the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee, will convene in Canton to nominate two senior candidates whose careers ended at least 25 years ago. The two senior nominees will automatically be included among the group of 17 finalists to be considered by the entire Selection Committee during its annual selection meeting on Feb. 1 in New York/New Jersey, the site of Super Bowl XLVIII.

The Seniors candidate originally was referred to as an “Old-Timer.” That nomenclature changed in 1990 when San Francisco 49ers legend Bob St. Clair shared his dislike for that particular term and suggested the more “politically correct” term of “senior.”

Senior Candidates 1972-2013>>>

The Seniors category was added to the Hall of Fame’s selection process in 1972 to assure that older players who may have been overlooked are considered for election along with modern-era candidates. The process has been tweaked over the years but current bylaws call for the seniors committee to nominate two candidates each year. The two nominees are selected from a list of 15 finalists that has been pared down from a larger list of nominees by the nine-member Seniors Committee. Five members of the committee, on a rotating basis, meet annually in Canton to ultimately select the two nominees. They are assisted each year by two different Hall of Famers who serve as consultants.

“Our selection process is extremely thorough,” commented Joe Horrigan, the Hall of Fame’s vice president of communications/exhibits. “This step is so very important because despite the thoroughness of the overall selection process, the seniors committee serves the vital role of making sure we don’t overlook a legitimate candidate. It assures that we go back and re-examine the merits of a player who, for whatever reason, may not have been given ample opportunity to be considered.”

Once named as a senior nominee, both players are discussed and analyzed by the entire 46-person Selection Committee during the annual selection meeting. The senior nominees must receive the same 80% affirmative vote as the modern-era nominees to earn election to the Hall of Fame.

The five selectors in attendance this week – John Czarnecki, Dave Goldberg, Rick Gosselin, John McClain, and Ira Miller – were selected on a rotating basis from the overall seniors committee.

“It's an incredible honor to be a member of the Seniors Committee, as it is to be a member of the Selection Committee,” commented McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “We have an unbelievable responsibility to honor the greatest players in history. Because there are so many worthy candidates every year, some slip through the cracks during their eligibility as a modern-era candidate. As members of the Seniors Committee, it's our responsibility to make sure they're not overlooked forever.”

“As members of the Seniors Committee, it's our responsibility to make sure they're not overlooked forever.” John McClain

Assisting the group of veteran sports journalists this week will be two Hall of Fame players whose careers took place during the eras of many of the candidates. Over the years, more than 60 Hall of Famers have served as consultants in the senior selection process. They provide insight and comments but do not vote. The comments for candidates are compiled and all notes from previous years’ consultants are shared with the seniors committee members. A sampling of football legends who’ve participated in past years include the likes of Tom Landry, Johnny Unitas, Larry Csonka, George Blanda, Otto Graham, Ray Nitchke, Jack Ham, and Paul Hornung.

On hand this year will be Class of 2003 guard Joe DeLamielleure and Class of 1986 safety Ken Houston. This week’s meeting marks the second time that Houston has participated in the seniors committee meeting.

“I feel very honored to be entrusted with this role. There are so many older players who are deserving of being a Hall of Famer,” shared Houston who starred for 14 seasons with the Houston Oilers (1967-1972) and Washington Redskins (1973-1980).

“To have input like this is a serious responsibility. I’m glad to offer input that may lead to someone becoming Hall of Famer, not because of me but because of the process.”

Click to watch video>>>

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene of the famed Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” served as a consultant for the first time last year. He sat down for an interview shortly after the experience and offered his thoughts on what it means to be a Hall of Famer and what qualities define a Hall of Fame player. Watch video>>>

Both of the 2012 senior candidates – Curley Culp and Dave Robinson – were ecstatic upon learning the news that they had beentabbed as Seniors finalists in August. Their long wait was extended more than five months as the selection process whittled the list of modern-era candidates down to 15 finalists that joined Culp and Robinson. The two defensive stars ultimately earned election, Culp in his 27th year of eligibility and Robinson 34 years after becoming eligible.

“Really, I don’t think anyone should have to wait as long as did. I don’t wish that on anybody,” opined Robinson shortly after his election to the Hall of Fame in February. “But, it’s a much sweeter taste waiting that long.”

He then shared his reaction to receiving the phone call last August and learned the news he had been nominated.

“I thanked God himself. I was really overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe it. I used an expletive I can’t repeat now. It was just a thrill to be nominated after all these years.

“I really think for so many reasons that guys are overlooked,” Robinson continued. “We really have to go back and pick up the guys who slipped through the cracks. At least put up their names to get voted on.”

Tune into NFL Network on Wednesday night for move coverage of the announcement of the senior nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2014. 

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