Road to Canton (via South Florida)

Road to Canton (via South Florida)

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On the day before Super Bowl XLIV in South Florida next February, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors will meet to hold its annual selection meeting to elect between four and seven individuals who will comprise the Class of 2010. The 44-person committee will debate the merits of 17 final candidates. Two of those finalists are this year’s senior nominees, former Detroit Lions defensive back Dick LeBeau and Denver Broncos running back Floyd Little.

The other 15 finalists will be selected from the initial list of 131 preliminary modern-era nominees that was announced on September 19. The selection process calls for a reduction to 25 semifinalists in November before the finalists are determined in January.

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For the first time ever, fans now have a forum to share opinions on the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thanks to our friends at JCPenney and Van Heusen, you can join the debate at jpc.com/fans>>>

Between now and Thanksgiving Weekend, Profootballhof.com will profile the groups of players who comprise this list of nominees for the 2010 class.

THIS WEEK: First-Year Eligibles
NEXT WEEK: Quarterback Nominees

Pro Football Hall of Fame selection by-laws call for a five-year waiting period for players and coaches before they become eligible for election to the Hall of Fame. Seven nominees, all players, last played in the National Football League in 2004. After waiting the mandatory five seasons, they are now part of the process and are eligible for consideration. Here’s a glimpse at the careers of these first-year eligibles.


, Kicker
This South Africa native was originally drafted out of Syracuse by the Buffalo Bills in the 7th round of the 1982 draft but never suited up for the team. He joined the Steelers where he starred through the 1994 season.  He also kicked for the Philadelphia Eagles (1995-96), San Francisco 49ers (1997), Minnesota Vikings (1998-2002), and Tennessee Titans (2003-04). In all, he played 23 seasons and amassed 2,434 points which ranks second most in NFL history. Anderson, named to the Pro Bowl four times, had 100 points in a season 14 times.

TIM BROWN, Wide Receiver/Kick Returner
The former Heisman Trophy winner and first round draft pick from Notre Dame in 1988 was not only a prolific receiver but Tim Brown was a lethal return man that averaged 10.2 yards per his 326 punt returns and had a 25.2 average on 49 kickoff returns. He starred in the NFL for 16 seasons with the Raiders before playing his final year in Tampa Bay.  In all, he hauled in 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards and had 100 receiving touchdowns. A nine-time Pro Bowl pick, Brown’s finest season came in 1997 when he had a career-high and league-leading 104 receptions.

RICH GANNON, Quarterback
Gannon, drafted by the New England Patriots in 1987, played 17 NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings (1987-1992), Washington Redskins (1993), Kansas City Chiefs (1995-98) and Oakland Raiders (1999-2004). His finest years came in Oakland when he led the team to three straight division titles and a Super Bowl appearance. He was honored during that span with four Pro Bowl berths and earning All-Pro honors twice. His best season came in 2002 when he passed for a NFL best 4,680 yards and was named the NFL MVP. In all, Gannon completed 2,533 of 4,206 passes for 28,743 yards, 180 TDs for a passer rating of 84.7. He also scored 21 rushing TDs.

EDDIE GEORGE, Running Back
George, the Heisman Trophy winning running back from Ohio State, was the first round pick by the Houston Oilers in 1996. For the next eight seasons, George was the face of the franchise. He played one final season in 2004 for the Dallas Cowboys. He rushed for 1,000 yards in every season with Houston/Tennessee except one when he narrowly missed the mark. A four-time Pro Bowl pick and two-time All-AFC selection, George rushed for 10,441 yards and 68 TDs and also caught 268 passes for 2,227 yards and 10 touchdowns during his career.

JERRY RICE, Wide Receiver
Rice, a product of Mississippi Valley State, became the most prolific pass receiver in NFL history during his 20 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (1985-2000), Oakland Raiders (2001-04) and Seattle Seahawks (2004). He was named first-team All-Pro 11 times and voted to 13 Pro Bowls. Rice led the league in receiving yards six times, receptions twice, and receiving touchdowns 7 times. In all, he accumulated a staggering 1,549 receptions for 22,895 yards and 194 TDs. He also added 645 yards rushing and 10 TDs on the ground. He played on 13 division winners and won three Super Bowls.

EMMITT SMITH, Running Back
Smith, the 17th overall pick in the 1990 draft out of Florida, led the NFL in rushing four of his first six seasons capped by a career high 1,773 yards in 1995. An eight-time Pro Bowl pick and four-time first-team All-Pro, he rushed for 1,000 yards in a record 11 straight seasons. The NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Smith retired with 18,355 yards on 4,409 carries and 164 touchdowns. He also had 515 career receptions for 3,224 yards and 11 TDs.  (Related story: all-time rusher leaders)

AENEAS WILLIAMS, Cornerback/Safety
Williams earned All-Pro honors four times, was named to eight Pro Bowls, and elected to the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade Team during his career with the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals (1991-2000) and the St. Louis Rams (2001-04). Drafted in the third round of the 1991 draft, he quickly turned into one of the premier defensive backs in the NFL. He played his first 12 seasons at cornerback before moving to safety. Known for his impeccable work ethic, Williams had a knack for the ball. Eight times in his career he recorded four or more interceptions in a season. His single-best year came in 1994 when he picked off 9 passes for the Cardinals. He retired with 55 picks for 807 yards and 9 TDs.

Straight to Canton. Sixty-six members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame were enshrined in their first year of eligibility included Bruce Smith and Rod Woodson in 2009.

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