A pair of players elected in their first year of eligibility, Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk, were included among the seven members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2011 announced Saturday night. Sanders and Faulk are the 64th and 65th members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame elected in their first year of eligibility. Sanders is just the eighth defensive back to earn the honor, while Faulk is the 13th running back elected to Canton on the first try.
Few doubted Sanders, arguably the best cover cornerback in league history, would be entering Canton this summer. Over his 14 NFL seasons, Sanders scored a total of 19 return touchdowns, the most in NFL history. Over the duration of his career (1989-2005), only fellow Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson had more interception returns touchdowns (11) than Sanders (9), despite the fact that Sanders didn't play in 2001, 2002 or 2003. Woodson and Sanders have another connection: prior to Saturday, Woodson was the last defensive back elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
The 1994 Defensive Player of the Year earned a pair of spots on the league's All-Decade Team of the 1990s, getting the nod at cornerback and punt returner. He was also named as the punt returner on the NFL's All-Time Team selected in 2000. A phenomenal athlete, Sanders was a threat to reach the end zone each time he touched the ball. He scored 12 career touchdowns of 70 or more yards. No other player has more since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Most TD of 70 or More Yds
Since AFL-NFL Merger (1970)
Sanders spent his offseasons roaming Major League Baseball outfields, appearing in 641 games with four different franchises. However, he is not the first member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to have played in the majors. Chicago Bears founder/owner/coach George Halas was a member of the Hall's inaugural class in 1963. 44 years before his induction, Halas played 12 games for the 1919 New York Yankees.
Faulk ranks as perhaps the best dual-threat running back in league history and is the only player to accumulate 12,000 rushing yards and 6,000 receiving yards in a career. Faulk eclipsed 2,000 yards from scrimmage in an NFL-record four straight seasons from 1998-01, earning four Pro Bowl trips, three Offensive Player of the Year Awards and the 2000 MVP Award during that span. Over that four-year period, Faulk totaled 8,992 yards from scrimmage, more than 2,000 yards ahead of any other player.
The much-decorated Faulk is one of just four players to win the AP's Offensive Rookie of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year and MVP Awards along with Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen and Earl Campbell. Following Faulk's induction this summer, all four players on that list will have a bust in Canton.