2015 inductees of Pro Football H.O.F. are…


By: LaShawn Encarnacion (aka The Dark Knight of Sports)

Every year a new class comes into the NFL and it is always a topic of debate as to who should get in and should should be kept out another year. Very rare when someone gets in on their first shot, unless you made beyond superstar level.  Eight names (Six former players and two former front office people) make up the class of 2015.

Front Office guru Ron Wolf:

As a former player with the Raiders of the AFL/AFC, Wolf won nine division titles, played in eight championship games while winning three out of those eight. But it is his work as a General Manager that gets him into Canton and the Hall of Fame in 2015. When the league decided to expand and bring a team to Tampa Bay, it was Wolf who was there to create the now well known Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who made the NFC Championship game in their fourth season of existence in the NFL.

Wolf then made a quick stop with the New York Jets before taking his talents to the most historic franchise in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers. From there his magic touch continued turning the Packers from mediocre and into the power NFL franchise they once were. Wolf managed the Packers to three straight NFC Central titles and back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, winning one Super Bowl in the process. Truly Wolf had the magic touch when it comes to making franchises relevant and competitive in the NFL.

Front Office respected and beloved Bill Polian:

There is a reason why Bill Polian is an analyst for ESPN, can breakdown the moves from the front office like few others can. As the man behind the Buffalo Bills of the 80’sand early 90’s. After all you don’t get to five Super Bowls and not know what you are doing. But before that insanely ridiculous success, Polian had himself some serious success as an NFL scout, the Kansas City Chiefs. In 1984 is where we get to the Bills and the amount of success Polian had. Four straight division titles with three Super Bowl appearances. If it were ANY team OTHER than the 49ers playing in those games, the outcome may have been a bit different In fact it almost was in their lost to the NY Giants.

Later in Polian’s career, he was made the General Manager of the expansion team, the Carolina Panthers. In just their second season in the league, made it all the way to the NFC championship game. Then we get to the final stop in Bill Polian’s front office journey, the Indianapolis Colts with Peyton Manning. Eight straight division titles with two Super Bowl appearances and winning one. Oh and being the ONLY administrator to be named “NFL’s Executive of the Year” by The Sporting News SIX times helps as well.

Now we get into the players who are being inducted into Canton and the Hall of Fame.

Minnesota Vikings Center Mick Tingelhoff:

At 6’2”, 237 pounds, he was known for his durability, toughness, and perseverance. He never missed a game and started all 240 regular season games of his career that ended with his retirement after the 1978 season. He also played in 19 playoff games during his NFL career. Tingelhoff earned a starting nod at center as a rookie and never relinquished the role for the remainder of his stellar 17-season career. Tingelhoff guided the Vikings to victories in four of the five NFL/NFC championships in which the team played and helped the club reach four Super Bowls (IV, VIII, IX, and XI).

Kansas City Chiefs Guard Will Shields:

At 6’3”, 320-pound guard out of the University of Nebraska, was drafted in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Inserted into the lineup in his first NFL game after the team’s starting left guard Dave Szott suffered an injury. Next season the coaching staff decided to move the line around and Shields ended up in the position that became his trademark slot, the right guard position. Shields never missed a game during his 14-season career and his 224 games played and 223 starts are franchise records.

Shields earned his first Pro Bowl berth following the 1995 season and embarked on a string of 12 straight AFC-NFC Pro Bowl berths that ran through the end of his career. He was named first-team All-Pro in 1999, 2002, and 2003 and picked as a second-team All-Pro choice four other times. Shields was named All-AFC seven times including in each of his final six seasons.

Defensive End for the Dallas Cowboys/San Francisco 49ers Charles Haley:

It is almost impossible for an NFL to win ONE Super Bowl ring in their entire career. But when a person wins FIVE Super Bowl rings, that is truly something special. Hence the name Charles Haley comes to mind as he is the ONLY player in NFL history to win five Super Bowl championships, with two different teams to point out.

Haley began his NFL career at linebacker and led San Francisco in sacks in each of his first six seasons. He recorded four double-digit sack totals with the 49ers including 12 sacks as a rookie and a career-high and NFC-leading 16 sacks in 1990.

He was moved to defensive end after his trade to Dallas and continued to excel at pressuring the quarterback. He added two more double-digit sack seasons in 1994 and 1995. Haley then suffered a serious back injury

Haley began his NFL career at linebacker and led San Francisco in sacks in each of his first six seasons. He recorded four double-digit sack totals with the 49ers including 12 sacks as a rookie and a career-high and NFC-leading 16 sacks in 1990.

He was moved to defensive end after his trade to Dallas and continued to excel at pressuring the quarterback. He added two more double-digit sack seasons in 1994 and 1995. Haley then suffered a serious back injury in 1996 that limited him to just five games. He retired after undergoing surgery.

However, after a two-year hiatus, Haley resigned with the 49ers as a backup defensive end for two playoff games in 1998. He came back to play one final season in 1999 and added three sacks to his career total.

When he walked away for the final time, Haley had amassed 100.5 sacks during his 169-game career. He was twice named NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1990 and 1994), voted to five Pro Bowls and named All-Pro two times, once as a linebacker and once as a defensive end.

Oakland Raiders Wide Receiver Tim Brown:

As the long jam of Hall of Fame candidates at the wide receiver position continues to get bigger with new candidates, one of the long waiting old candidates finally gets his name called to Canton. Formerly from the University of Notre Dame, this Heisman Trophy winning wide receiver truly earned his striped and that gold jacket.

He managed to haul in 43 receptions and score 5 TDs as a rookie but it was as a kick returner that he received accolades. Brown was named first-team All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL in kickoff returns (41 for 1,098 yards, 26.8 average, and 1 TD) and setting a rookie record for combined. Starting in 1993, Brown recorded nine straight 1,000-yard seasons and 10 consecutive years with 75 or more catches. Best season came in 1997, a year in which he became the Raiders’ all-time receiving leader. He caught 104 catches for 1,408 yards to win the NFL receiving title. He set a team record with seven 100-yard games and tied a NFL mark with five games with 150-plus yards receiving.

Pittsburgh Steelers Running Back Jerome “The Bus” Bettis:

“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round.” A lot of us as kids know this song. But we never knew a bus that not only we round and round but also demolished everything in its path that the Pittsburgh Steelers Jerome Bettis did through his career.

Bettis was selected in the first round, 10th player overall, out of Notre Dame by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1993 NFL Draft. He finished second in the NFL in rushing during his rookie season after gaining 1,429 yards. Included in that total were his first career 100-yard and 200-yard rushing games, both of which came against the New Orleans Saints. His 212-yard day that season was a career-high. At the time he was only the eighth rookie in NFL history to rush for 200 yards in a game. His output that year marked the first of eight 1,000-yard seasons in his first nine years. He was named Rookie of the Year by numerable media outlets and was chosen as a first-team All-Pro and All-NFC.

After three seasons with the Rams, Bettis made his way to the STEEL City and the Steelers.

The 5’11”, 243-pound runner continued to carry the load for Pittsburgh. He was the Steelers’ leading ground gainer eight times in 10 seasons. Bettis, a six-time Pro Bowler, retired following his lone Super Bowl appearance in the 2005 season (Super Bowl XL). The Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks, 21-10, in the game played in Bettis’s hometown of Detroit.

At the time of his retirement, Bettis ranked fifth all-time in rushing with 13,662 yards on 3,479 career carries. Nicknamed “The Bus” for his bruising running style, he also scored 91 rushing touchdowns. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game 61 times during the regular season and three more times in playoff games.

In addition to his rushing totals, Bettis amassed 1,449 yards on 200 receptions and 3 TDs. His combined net yardage (15,113) was 19th best all-time at the time of his retirement. Bettis also completed three passes, all for touchdowns in his 13-season, 192-game career

San Diego Chargers Linebacker Junior Seau:

First things first, for all who have seen the banner of the Hall of Fame ceremony, noticed that Seau is in a New England Patriots uniform. That is about as real as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick NOT cheating in some form or another. So lets be real, Seau will be considered a San Diego Charger through and through and into Canton Ohio and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Seau started 15 games in his rookie campaign and finished as the team’s second-leading tackler. The following season, he earned league-wide acclaim when he was named All-Pro for the first of six straight seasons. Seau was named All-Pro two more times (1998 and 2000). An intense competitor and team leader, Seau was also voted to 12 Pro Bowls.

In 1994, he led the Chargers to their first and only Super Bowl appearance. He played an integral role San Diego’s success that season as the team finished 11-5 and won the AFC Western Division. He recorded 155 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, forced a fumble and had three passes defensed to pace the Chargers that season. Seau registered 10 or more tackles in a game 10 times that year (eight in the regular season and two in postseason).

In the playoffs, Seau led the Chargers as they knocked off the Miami Dolphins in the division playoffs before defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 17-13, in the AFC championship to earn a trip to Super Bowl XXIX. Seau recorded 12 tackles, four assists and one pass defensed in the conference championship win.

Then, despite falling to the 49ers in the Super Bowl, Seau had a strong showing and finished with 9 solo tackles, 2 assisted tackles and sacked Steve Young once for a loss of four yards. Later in his career, Seau played in the 2007 AFC championship game and Super Bowl XLII while a member of the New England Patriots.

He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 by UPI and Football Digest and was the Chargers Most Valuable Player six times. Seau was also named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s. Beside Tony Gwynn, the other name that immediately comes to mind when speaking of San Diego sports is Junior Seau. Graduated from Oceanside High School and came back to play for the team he idolized growing up, gave back SO MUCH to the San Diego community … HIS community.

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