GREEN BAY, Wis. – Two Green Bay Packers legends, LeRoy Butler and Charles Woodson, are among 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, the Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday.
Woodson, Jared Allen, Calvin Johnson are Peyton Manning are in their first year of eligibility. Butler is a four-time semifinalist.
Woodson was the fourth pick of the 1998 draft by the Oakland Raiders after winning the Heisman Trophy at Michigan. He spent eight seasons in Oakland before signing a free-agent contract with the Packers in 2006. A player known at the time as much for his negative attitude as his talent, Woodson turned in seven dominant seasons for the Packers to cement his status as a future Pro Football Hall of Famer.
“The decision was really made for me, to be honest,” Woodson said upon being selected for the Packers Hall of Fame last year. “There wasn’t a whole lot of suitors out there for me as a free agent. The Green Bay Packers came with a package, and to quote the movie, they showed me the money. They really wanted me there and showed that they wanted me there. So, that was the initial decision-making process I went through with me going to Green Bay.
“Then once I got there, it was kind of rough at the beginning, because I really didn’t quite want to be there, and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that I didn’t have anybody who wanted me on their team, and I was really sour about that, so it kind of dictated the way I interacted with a lot of people around there, really standoffish, got into some verbal arguments and things like that. When I look back on it, I kind of feel like it was my way of trying to get out of the situation. But I’m really glad I didn’t get out of it because it turned out the way it turned out. I finally got comfortable being there, and once I started playing and started making plays, everything kind of took care of itself from there.”
He intercepted 38 passes and broke up 115 with the Packers and was the heartbeat of the 2010 team that won the Super Bowl. He was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008 through 2011 – including NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009 – and led the league in interceptions in 2009 and 2011. He set franchise records for the most touchdowns on interceptions (nine) and the most defensive touchdowns (10).
Last year was Butler’s 14th year of eligibility but the first time he moved to the finalist round. He is the only offensive or defensive player on the all-1990s team not in the Hall of Fame.
Butler, a second-round pick in 1990, played 12 seasons for the Packers. A four-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, he recorded 38 interceptions and 20.5 sacks during his career to become the first defensive back in NFL history with 20-plus interceptions and 20-plus sacks. Now, seven defensive backs have had 20/20 careers; Butler ranks third in that group in interceptions. He had at least two interceptions in eight consecutive seasons, including six in 1993 and five more in 1996, when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI.
Safety long had been a neglected position in the Hall of Fame but the selectors are starting to make headway. Five safeties have earned induction over the last four years, with Troy Polamalu and Steve Atwater in 2020, Ed Reed in 2019, Brian Dawkins in 2018 and Kenny Easley in 2017.
Before last year, Butler and Atwater were the only all-1990s players on offense or defense not in the Hall of Fame.
“Every minute that went by that I didn’t get a phone call, I was like, ‘Great,’” Butler said last year. “I just never really worry about a lot of things that I can’t control. I felt good about my case being heard. That made me feel great. That’s all I really wanted was to have somebody hear it. Hopefully, it sparks some interest and we’ll see what happens.”
Class of 2021 Candidates
The following is the list of 2021 Modern-Era Semifinalists, including their positions, years and teams. Also listed are the number of times and years the candidate has been named a semifinalist since this reduction vote was added to the Bylaws for the Selection Committee in 2004.
Eric Allen, CB – 1988-1994 Philadelphia Eagles, 1995-97 New Orleans Saints, 1998-2001 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
Jared Allen, DE – 2004-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2008-2013 Minnesota Vikings, 2014-15 Chicago Bears, 2015 Carolina Panthers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
Willie Anderson, T – 1996-2007 Cincinnati Bengals, 2008 Baltimore Ravens | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2018-2021)
Cornelius Bennett, LB – 1987-1995 Buffalo Bills, 1996-98 Atlanta Falcons, 1999-2000 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2016-2021)
LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2018-2021)
Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2016-2021)
Rodney Harrison, S – 1994-2002 San Diego Chargers, 2003-08 New England Patriots | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2015-2021)
Calvin Johnson, WR – 2007-2015 Detroit Lions | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 9 – 2013-2021)
Peyton Manning, QB – 1998-2011 Indianapolis Colts (injured reserved 2011), 2012-15 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
Clay Matthews, LB – 1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2012, 2017, 2019-2021)
Sam Mills, LB – 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2016, 2019-2021)
Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2018-2021)
Steve Tasker, ST/WR – 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2004, 2008-2010, 2012-13, 2020-21)
Fred Taylor, RB – 1998-2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009-2010 New England Patriots | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2020-21)
Zach Thomas, LB – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2019-2021)
Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2017-2021)
Reggie Wayne, WR – 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2020-21)
Patrick Willis, LB – 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2020-21)
Charles Woodson, CB/S – 1998-2005, 2013-15 Oakland Raiders, 2006-2012 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2021)
Darren Woodson, S – 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2015, 2017, 2019-2021)
Bryant Young, DT – 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2020-21)
The list of 25 semifinalists was reduced from an initial group of 130 nominees announced in September. It will be trimmed further to the 15 modern-era finalists. Those 15, along with nominees for coach (Tom Flores), contributor (Bill Nunn) and senior player (Drew Pearson), will form the 18-man slate of finalists from which Hall of Fame voters will choose the Class of 2021 during the week leading up to Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Fla. The four- to eight-member class is scheduled to be enshrined on Sunday, Aug. 8, in Canton, Ohio.