Well before the modern era where passing attacks reign supreme in the NFL, the running back position was stacked in the early-to-mid 2000s.
The league featured numerous great and reliable running backs such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Tiki Barber, Jamal Lewis, and Priest Holmes. But while a few of those backs have made it to the Hall of Fame, former Seahawks superstar Shaun Alexander somehow hasn't come close to this point.
In 2000, Seattle drafted Alexander with the 19th pick out of the University of Alabama and he quickly made his presence known. In just his second season in the league in 2001, he racked up 1,318 yards on the ground, 343 yards as a receiver, and lead the league with 14 rushing touchdowns.
A couple of years later, Alexander would be named to his first of three straight Pro Bowls from 2003 through 2005. In 2005, he led the league in rushing yards, set an NFL record with 27 rushing touchdowns, and became the first Seahawk to ever win NFL MVP honors. He also helped lead the franchise to their first-ever Super Bowl against the Steelers, but unfortunately, they would lose 21-10 at Ford Field.
Alexander would later be named to the 2000s All-Decade squad and the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team. Still, despite dominating for most of his eight seasons in Seattle, former teammate and current CBS analyst Nate Burleson believes he hasn't received his due.
The former O'Dea High School standout was recently on the Scoop B Radio with Brandon 'Scoop B' Robinson and shared why he felt Alexander was underappreciated.
“He’s a quiet individual who went out there and didn’t talk about how great he was. He’d rather do it on the field. And also I believe because it was a small window of time where that he was the BEST running back in football,” said Burleson.
“It’s like I always say man, 'Football is like fast food. People will appreciate while they’re eating it, but they’re always are looking forward to the next meal.' So it’s fast-food football."
Burleson believes Alexander's accomplishments in Seattle have faded into the wind in part because of the presence of other elite backs during his era.
"People did appreciate that window of time where Shaun was cookin’, but he was also sandwiched between guys that were dominating; Curtis Martin before him and LaDainian Tomlison after him. So when you’re sandwiched in between guys that are as impactful, even more within their organization, you’ll constantly get overshadowed.”
Last October, TMZ Sports interviewed Burleson and asked if his former teammate from 2006-2007 deserved to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"With Shaun Alexander, there's three tiers. Was he one of the best of his draft class? Yes. Was he one of the best of his era? Yes," Burleson said. "And, can you write the story of football without him? That might be up for debate."
Another former teammate, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, took it a step further and said he absolutely believed Alexander deserved to be enshrined in Canton.
"I sure do," Hasselbeck told me. "I'm not an expert on the numbers and I was never that big into stats. When we were teammates, he was one of the best running backs in the game, a household name, on the cover of Madden, breaking franchise and NFL records seemingly all the time."
Though Alexander lacked the sizzle of some of the other elite backs who are in the Hall of Fame, Hasselbeck cited his effectiveness inside the 20-yard line as the prime reason he should receive a gold jacket.
"I do not know of a better red-zone runner. There have been some great runners in NFL history that were Hall of Fame runners but weren't great goal line running backs. I think Barry Sanders might be the greatest running back of all time. But on the goal line or inside the three-yard line was not his strength."
"When he got anywhere near that end zone, he was going to find a way to get in. Almost like a shark smelling water, he got near the end zone and was going to find a way to score a touchdown. I think that is one of the special things about Shaun Alexander as a player."
While his last two seasons in Seattle weren't near as successful due to injury, Alexander rushed for 9,429 yards and 100 touchdowns in just 119 games for the Seahawks in eight seasons. Interestingly, he and Adrian Peterson are the only players in the top 10 all-time for rushing touchdowns who aren't Hall of Famers. Peterson will eventually make it when he hangs up his cleats.
Alexander has yet to even be named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame since retiring after the 2009 season, but after seeing his former teammate Steve Hutchinson get the call in February, there's still hope he could eventually join him in Canton.