Derrick Brooks headlines HOF class
NEW YORK -- In a nod to both the excellence of those who were in their first years of eligibility as well as those who waited some time for their turns, former Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014 on Saturday.
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Jones and Brooks were in their first years of eligibility. Guy and Humphrey were both finalists chosen by the Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee.
The class was selected after a nine-hour meeting of the Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors, believed to be the longest-ever meeting of the group.
Induction will be on Aug. 1, in Canton, Ohio.
Brooks was chosen for 11 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons with the Buccaneers, was a five-time first-team All Pro by the Associated Press, and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2002. He was equally respected off the field, having won the 2000 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
"I guess I can't bring my teammates in with me, but their spirits are," Brooks said. "I guess it's OK to accept this award on my personal behalf, but I'm always thinking of those guys."
Brooks returned an interception for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and he returned three interceptions for touchdowns in the 2002 season.
He took to Twitter after he learned he was headed to Canton.
Thought of tonight is JOY, HUMILITY, and gratefulness, I'm in the Hall of Fame Now— Derrick Brooks (@DBrooks55) February 1, 2014
Jones was a nine-time Pro Bowler as well as a four-time first-team All Pro selection by the AP. After the Seahawks selected Jones sixth overall in the 1997 draft, he started all 180 games he played for Seattle in his 12 seasons. He was whistled for holding only nine times in 5,703 pass plays, and allowed only 23 sacks in his career. He was voted to the NFL All-Decade team for the 2000s.
"It's been a long journey for me to be at this point," Jones said. "Coming into the league, all I wanted to do was get here and play in this game to say I could play in this game. For me to be here now, and for my team that I started with and finished with to be in the Super Bowl, is just like the icing on the cake. It has been fun, and I'm enjoying the moment and just taking it all in."
Reed, who had been an eight-time finalist for the Hall, was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and the Buffalo Bills' leading receiver in each of their four Super Bowl seasons. He also ranks fifth in NFL history with 85 postseason receptions and found a way to produce in a Bills offense that ran the ball 51 percent of the time during his career.
"I'll think about my dad, who's up there, too, and all the games he was at and how he supported me, and all the people who watched me since I was 8 years old," Reed said. "You try to put that all in one emotion."
Strahan, who had his Hall of Fame credentials questioned publicly by Warren Sapp during Super Bowl week, was a Hall finalist for the second consecutive year. Strahan, who played the left defensive end spot, was a five-time All-Pro selection and a seven-time Pro Bowler. He ranks fifth all time in sacks with 141.5, and his 22.5 sacks in 2001 set a NFL single-season record. Strahan was also selected to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
"I'm excited to have made it and to join the other members of the Hall of Fame," he said. "And to be inducted with the class I'm inducted in, guys that I admired when I played against them, guys I admired when I watched them, even though they're from a different era. They're guys of high character. That's all you can ask for, to be with a group like that, and I'm honored to be with this group."
And while the Hall voters often have made defensive players who played on teams that struggled for the bulk of their careers wait a little longer than some others, Williams' credentials were impeccable. The physical Williams, who played for the Cardinals and Rams, was an eight-time Pro Bowl choice and a three-time All-Pro selection. Williams, who played cornerback and safety in his career, finished with 55 career interceptions, nine of which he returned for touchdowns.
"My wife and I, when we got the call, tears of joy fell down just thanking God for this opportunity. Thank you," Williams said.
Guy now has the distinction of being the first punter elected to the Hall. His eligibility as a modern-era candidate had expired, and he now joins Jan Stenerud as the only kickers in Canton.
Guy turned the punting job into a defensive weapon after he became the first player at his position to be selected in the first round of the draft in 1973. He made "hang time" part of the football vernacular while playing all of his 207 games in 14 seasons with the Raiders.
"Good things are worth waiting for," he said. "It's just a matter of time when it will show up. And I knew it would, sooner or later. It had to, whether it was me or somebody down the road. But sooner or later, it had to show up, because that is a part of a football game."
Humphrey was the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1968 after being the third player picked in the draft. Although the sack was not an official league statistic until 1982 after he had retired, Humphrey has since been credited with 122 during his career.
"I never really gave up hope," he said. "I always figured that there was a place for me here. It has been a long time, and it has been a lot of disappointments after being nominated so many times and always getting to the finals and missing. Getting to the finals and getting in is such a great experience for me. I tell you what, it's hard to explain."
Running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, defensive end Charles Haley and guard Will Shields had made the cut from 15 modern-era finalists to 10, but did not make the final cut for the Hall of Fame class. Former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo, wide receiver Tim Brown, safety John Lynch, coach Tony Dungy and kicker Morten Andersen did not make the cut from 15 to 10 in Saturday's selection meeting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.