Finalists for the Class of 2009 include four first-year eligible players.
In his 17 NFL seasons (1987-1996 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers, 1998-2001 Baltimore Ravens, 2002-03 Oakland Raiders) Rod Woodson recorded 71 interceptions; 1,483 interception return yards; 2,362 punt return yards; and 17 touchdowns.
As the undeniable leader of the Bills, Ralph Wilson continues to play a major role among National Football League franchise owners as “the voice of reason,” for his ability to tackle some of the NFL’s toughest issues.
The Kansas City Chiefs selected linebacker Derrick Thomas as the fourth player overall in the 1989 National Football League Draft. No player amassed more sacks during the decade of 1990s than the 116.5 sacks by Thomas. He finished his career with 126.5 sacks which was the fourth highest total by a linebacker in NFL history.
During Paul Tagliabue’s 17-year reign as Commissioner of the National Football League, pro football grew to unparalleled heights.
The NFL’s all-time career sack leader (200), Bruce Smith’s 13 seasons with 10 or more sacks is an NFL record. Dedicated to staying in top physical condition, Smith was named to both the NFL’s All-Decade Teams of the 1980s and 1990s.
Shannon Sharpe's breakout year came during his third season when he led the Broncos in receiving with 53 catches for 640 yards to earn his first of eight Pro Bowl nods.
Without a doubt, the most prolific receiver in Bills history, Andre Reed, a four-time All-AFC choice, is still the team’s all-time leading receiver with 941 receptions, (266 more than number two on the list). His 13,095 career reception yards are still a team best, as are his 36 games with 100-plus receiving yards and his 15 receptions in a game.
John Randle amassed 137.5 sacks during his 14-season career. He led the Vikings in sacks nine times and the Seahawks twice. Thirty-five times he recorded multi-sack games including eight games with three or more sacks. Randle was elected to seven Pro Bowls (1994-99, 2002) and named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
Randall McDaniel blocked for six different 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers during his 14-season career.
During Bob Kuechenberg's tenure the Dolphins won seven AFC Eastern Division titles (1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1979, 1981, and 1983), four AFC championships (1971, 1972, 1973, and 1982), and NFL titles in Super Bowls VII and VIII.
© Getty Images
Although he was often double- or even triple-teamed Cortez Kennedy managed to lead or rank near the top in tackles each season. In 1996, he was voted to a team record sixth consecutive Pro Bowl and also was named the team’s MVP and the winner of the Steve Largent Award given to the player that best exemplified the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks.<p>
Although it didn’t become an official NFL statistic until after he retired, Claude Humphrey is credited with 122 career sacks. A devastating pass rusher, he led his team in sacks nine of the 13 seasons he played for the Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, including his rookie season when he dumped opposing quarterbacks 11.5 times.
Bob Hayes demonstrated time and again that he possessed tremendous football skills and instincts that helped him to develop into a terrific NFL wide receiver. Still, his world class speed was a major factor in his and the Cowboys offensive successes.
Russ Grimm appeared in five NFC championship games during his 11-year, 140-game career. He also helped the Redskins to four Super Bowl appearances including wins in Super Bowls XVII, XXII, and XXVI.
Twice – once in 1984 and then again in 1987 – Richard Dent dropped Los Angeles Raiders quarterbacks for a career high 4.5 sacks in a single game.
Dermontti Dawson played in 184 regular season games and his 170 consecutive games played ranks second in club history. Named a center on the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, Dawson started in three AFC championship games and was Pittsburgh’s starting center in Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys.
Known for his durability, Cris Carter played full 16-game seasons in 13 of his 16 years in the NFL. He finished his 234-game career as the NFL’s second all-time leading receiver with 1,101 receptions for 13,899 yards.