SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Greatness comes in all shapes and forms, even in college football, where size and speed are the currency of the realm. But the two players who represented the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame class introduced Friday are punters.
Randall Cunningham, the UNLV star who went on to a productive 17-year NFL career as a quarterback, will enter the Hall as a punter. Pat McInally, the 6-foot-10 Harvard tight end, enjoyed a 10-year NFL career as a punter and wide receiver. Players are eligible for selection by the National Football Foundation based on becoming a first-team All-American, so Cunningham's prowess in the NFL had no official bearing on his selection.
"To be able to sit here and to be in is the most important thing," Cunningham said at a news conference. "If I made it as the greatest trainer, it would be an honor. So it's just a blessing to be in."
McInally and Cunningham stood in for the class of 14 players and two coaches. For the first time in many years, the Hall didn't select an FBS coach. Bill Bowes of New Hampshire (175-106-5) and Frank Girardi of Lycoming (257-97-5), who won 20 conference titles between them, are the newest Hall of Fame coaches.
The remaining honorees are Florida State linebacker Derrick Brooks, Ohio State linebacker Tom Cousineau, Iowa State tailback Troy Davis, North Carolina defensive tackle William Fuller, LSU quarterback Bert Jones, Wisconsin defensive lineman Tim Krumrie, Colorado defensive end Herb Orvis, Ashland linebacker Bill Royce, Washington State guard Mike Utley, Georgia defensive back Scott Woerner, Nebraska-Omaha quarterback Marlin Briscoe and Purdue defensive back Rod Woodson.
Players must not only have been first-team All-Americans but also be 10 years out of college football and retired from the pros. Given the backlog -- with 25 to 30 first-team All-Americans every year and about half that number of inductees -- the players selected by the Hall often are middle-aged or older.
The 2016 class features only three players from the 1990s: Brooks, the linchpin of Florida State's first national championship team in 1993; Davis, the only FBS player to rush for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons; and Royce.
The remaining 11 players finished their college careers at least 30 years ago. To be remembered at this time of their lives touches them where they live.
"I was flabbergasted when I found out," said McInally, 62.
Utley was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection and an All-American in 1988 with the Cougars, when he was named team MVP. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1989. On Nov. 17, 1991, he fractured three vertebrae during a game against the Los Angeles Rams at the Lions' Silverdome. As he was taken off the field on a stretcher, he famously flashed a thumbs-up to the crowd. The injury left him paralyzed, and he remains in a wheelchair.
He established the Mike Utley Foundation in 1992, which provides research, rehab and education for those living with spinal cord injuries and financially supports rehabilitation projects.
Cunningham, 52, is the younger brother of USC fullback Sam Cunningham, who entered the Hall in 2010.
"I thank God to be able to follow in his footsteps," Cunningham said, "because example for me as a person in high school and college and then when he played with New England in the pros. And he's always been the kind of person who has been kind and generous and really cared about his younger brothers and his family. So this is a great honor to share with him."
The Hall of Fame is needed not just to honor the great players and coaches of the past but also to lend perspective to the history of the game. Brooks is only the sixth Seminole selected for the Hall. McInally is the 18th Harvard representative but the first who competed after World War II.
"Like I've been saying for a long time," McInally said with a grin, patting Cunningham on the shoulder as he spoke, "the best athletes in football are punters, and they play other positions also. So don't specialize too young."
"Watching the [Orange Bowl] game the other day," Cunningham said of Watson, "running the ball then throwing the quick, short passes and going deep, it's pretty amazing. I didn't get to watch Clemson a lot this year, but to see this young man play is pretty amazing."
The Hall of Famers will participate in the coin toss of the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night between Clemson and Alabama. They will be inducted into the Hall on Dec. 6 at the annual black-tie dinner in New York.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.