Who should be the senior candidate for the Class of 2019?
Since establishing a senior committee in 1972, the Hall of Fame has enshrined 44 senior candidates. Since 2010, every senior candidate nominated has been enshrined except one – 1950s all-decade guard Dick Stanfel. He was turned down in 2012 but was subsequently enshrined in 2016 when he was again nominated.
Linebacker Robert Brazile and guard Jerry Kramer were the two senior candidates in the Class of 2018. There is only one senior candidate scheduled for the Class of 2019. So who should get that nomination? That’s the subject of our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll. Who deserves to be the 45th nominee from the senior committee. Here are your options…and candidates:
Ken Anderson. A four-time NFL passing champion (two each in the 1970s and 1980s), an NFL MVP (1981) and a Super Bowl appearance (1982). Anderson also became the first quarterback of the modern era to complete 70 percent of his passes in a single season. He threw 197 touchdown passes in his 16-year career and also rushed for 20 scores.
Randy Gradishar. The 1978 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Gradishar was the 14th overall pick of the 1974 draft by the Denver Broncos who stepped into the starting lineup in his second season and went on to collect a franchise-record 2,049 tackles. He was voted to seven Pro Bowls in his 10-year career and was a first-team all-pro inside linebacker in 1977-78.
Cliff Harris. There were 22 positions players selected to the 1970s NFL all-decade first team and 20 have been enshrined in Canton. The two that haven’t? Cowboys Cliff Harris and Drew Pearson. An undrafted college free agent from tiny Ouachita Baptist, Harris became a starter in his second season and went to the Pro Bowl in six of his final nine seasons. Harris also returned punts and kickoffs early in his career, averaging 25.7 yards per career kickoff return and 6.3 yards per punt.
Winston Hill. Spent his career protecting Joe Namath’s blind side with the New York Jets. Hill went to four AFL All-Star games, then four Pro Bowls after the merger. Light afoot – Hill was a prep tennis champion in his home state of Texas -- he played 15 seasons and at one point started 174 consecutive games. Hill, who passed away in 2016, has been enshrined in the Jets’ Ring of Honor.
Alex Karras. One of three all-decade defensive tackles for the 1960s but the only one not enshrined in Canton. Both Bob Lilly and Merlin Olsen were first-ballot selections but Karras has never even been a finalist. Karras played one fewer season than Warren Sapp but had one more sack (97 ½) – and Karras played in an era when NFL teams ran the ball far more than they threw. Sapp, by the way, was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Eddie Meador. One of four NFL all-decade safeties for the 1960s, Meador still holds franchise records of the Los Angeles Rams for interceptions (46) and blocked kicks (10). But like Karras, he has never been a Hall finalist so his candidacy has never been discussed by the selection committee. Meador was voted to six Pro Bowls in his 12-year career as both a cornerback and safety.
Tommy Nobis. The first overall pick of the expansion Atlanta Falcons in 1966, Nobis became a walk-in starter who set a franchise record with 294 tackles as a rookie. He went to the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons before suffering a knee injury in the opening month of the 1969 season. So impressive was Nobis in his first four seasons that he was voted to the 1960s NFL all-decade team. Knee injuries and subsequent surgeries to both his left and right knee slowed his career but could not prevent him from making five Pro-Bowl teams.
Drew Pearson. From the 1930s through the 1990s, there were 16 first-team NFL all-decade selections at wide receiver. Fifteen of them have been enshrined in Canton. Pearson is the only one still without a bust. And he has never even been a finalist. Pearson led the NFC in receptions in 1977 and was on the receiving end of one of the most famous passes in NFL history, the Hail Mary from Roger Staubach that upset the Vikings in the 1975 playoffs.
Johnny Robinson. With Jerry Kramer now enshrined in Canton, only one position player selected to the first-team 1960s all-decade team remains without a bust – Robinson. He began his career with the fledgling Dallas Texans as a running back but after two seasons moved to safety. He played there for his final 10 and intercepted 57 passes, which ties him for 13th all-time. He led the AFL with 10 interceptions in 1966 and then led the NFL, again with 10, in the first season of the merged leagues in 1970. He went to seven Pro Bowls and helped the Texans/Chiefs win three AFL championships and a Super Bowl.
Andy Russell. Russell arrived in Pittsburgh in 1963 during the pre-Super Bowl era. Translation: bad football. After a two-year stint in the military in 1964-65, Russell returned to start the final 11 seasons of his career. He was the team MVP one season (1971) and the team’s defensive MVP in two others (1968, 1970). Russell served as defensive captain of the Steelers the final 10 seasons of his career and went to the Pro Bowl the final six years of his career. He started on two Super Bowl champions.