AP Photo/Patric Schneider
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the semifinalists for the modern-era portion of its upcoming 2022 class.
Twenty-six players made the cut, including seven in their first year of eligibility. Eddie George, Andre Johnson and Vince Wilfork are among those looking to become first-ballot Hall of Famers.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Hines Ward is one of five players to have been a semifinalist at least six times.
Johnson is 11th all time in receptions (1,062) and receiving yards (14,185). He made seven Pro Bowls and was a two-time first-team All-Pro over 14 seasons.
Despite his impressive resume, the 40-year-old might see his Hall of Fame case lost in the shuffle a bit since he’s one of many talented receivers still in the running.
Ward isn’t even the best of the rest.
Torry Holt caught 920 passes for 13,382 yards and 74 touchdowns, and seven of his 11 years in the NFL ended with a Pro Bowl nod. Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk are already in the Hall of Fame. Their former “Greatest Show on Turf” counterpart may be joining them soon.
Reggie Wayne was even more prolific than Holt, finishing with 1,070 receptions, 14,345 yard and 82 touchdowns. Wayne lived in Marvin Harrison’s shadow early in his career, but he had three 1,000-yard receiving seasons following Harrison’s retirement in 2008.
On defense, Wilfork and Richard Seymour will hope the team success they enjoyed with the New England Patriots can catapult them to Canton, Ohio.
Both were dominant defensive linemen during their prime years. Wilfork made five Pro Bowls over a six-year span, and Seymour had three straight All-Pro years from 2003 to 2005. Winning two and three Super Bowls, respectively, is arguably at the top of their career achievements, though.
No Hall of Fame semifinalist may be more interesting than Devin Hester.
Hester only had 3,427 yards from scrimmage and 17 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns over 11 seasons. The four-time Pro Bowler did his most damage on special teams and is perhaps the greatest return man ever.
Hester returned 14 punts for touchdowns and took it to the house five times on kickoffs.
Especially considering the NFL made new rules on kickoffs for the purpose of player safety, there may not be another player like the former Chicago Bears star to come along again.
Hall of Fame voters are willing to recognize exceptional special teams players—four kickers and one punter are enshrined in Canton. But you have to get to No. 27 on the list of all-time return yards before you find a Hall of Famer, and Rod Woodson received the honor primarily for his defensive contributions.
Hester has a strong argument to be an exception.