Being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is something that players aspire to starting from a very young age. Images of the greatest players of all time putting on those stunning golden jackets remain fresh in the memories of football fans throughout their lives.
Yesterday we highlighted some recent NFL retirees that are potential first-ballot hall of famers. Before we get into our latest list, let’s review the process of being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. First and foremost, players and coaches must be retired for five years before they can be nominated for consideration.
Nominees are considered by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee which is polled three times between March and October to eventually narrow the list of potentials down from however many are nominated (there is no limit) to 25 semifinalists.
A final ballot is made up in November which includes 17 finalists. The Selection Committee meets again the day before the Super Bowl to elect a new class. The number of people enshrined each year falls between four and seven.
There are several current NFL players that will be likely find themselves wearing one of those special gold jackets someday. With so many to choose from, the list has been narrowed down to a top 10. In no particular order, here’s the list!
Fitzgerald will always be known as having some of the best hands in NFL history. He has six seasons in which he’s gone over 1,000 yards in receiving and has made over 70 receptions in eight of the past nine years (the one year he didn’t, he caught 69 passes). An eight-time Pro Bowler, Fitzgerald has already accumulated 11,367 yards on 846 receptions and is only 30 years old.
If anyone on this list is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s Peyton. His list of NFL accolades goes on and on and he’s set countless records throughout the years. 13 Pro Bowl selections, five MVP awards, a Super Bowl MVP and a seven time All-Pro, Manning will be a first-ballot hall of famer without a doubt.
One of the most interesting things to see when Polamalu is eventually welcomed into the hall of fame is how his bust looks with that giant head of hair he’s sported throughout his 11-year NFL career. Troy has racked up 32 interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, 12 sacks and 13 forced fumbles while helping the Pittsburgh Steelers to a pair of Super Bowl wins.
Gates exploded onto the NFL scene in his second season, breaking the then-record for touchdowns by a tight end with 13 in 2004. He was selected to eight consecutive Pro Bowl’s and is a five-time All-Pro. He is one of only seven tight ends with more than 500 receptions and his 87 touchdowns are second to only Tony Gonzalez. Gates went nine straight seasons with at least seven touchdown catches.
Where Peyton Manning has the majority of the records, Brady has the rings. He won three Super Bowl’s in his first four years as an NFL starter and has been the leader of perhaps the best franchise in the new millennium. Brady has been a league MVP twice and has a pair of Super Bowl MVP’s to match. The nine-time Pro Bowler had one of the best statistical seasons the NFL has ever seen in 2007 and has shown no signs of slowing down despite having just turned 37 earlier this month.
The only cornerback in NFL history to make 12 Pro Bowl’s, Bailey was the elite shutdown corner of his generation. The seven-time All-Pro helped the Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl last season and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000’s. He has 52 interceptions and seven forced fumbles and will undoubtedly find himself in the hall of fame sooner rather than later.
Wayne became an everyday starter in 2003. A year later he surpassed 1,000 yards for the first time and went on to reach that goal in this next seven seasons. Despite being cut down by a season-ending knee injury in 2013, Wayne cracked the 1,000 receptions mark and has picked up over 13,000 receiving yards during his 13-year career. A six-time Pro-Bowl selection, Wayne helped the Colts win Super Bowl XLI with a 53-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
Reed hasn’t officially retired yet so he’s still listed as an active NFL player. An elite safety since his days at the University of Miami, Reed is a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and an eight-time All-Pro. His 64 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles and nine career touchdowns solidify him as one of the best safeties to ever play the game.
That’s right, there’s a kicker on this list. The best clutch kicker the NFL has ever seen, Vinateri has been consistently kicking the ball through the uprights for the better part of the past three decades. The only kicker to make a game-winning field goal in the final moments of a Super Bowl, Vinateri has picked up four rings during his illustrious 18-year career. Even though he’ll turn 42 during the 2014 season, Vinateri is still going strong and has no plans on calling it quits any time soon.
Woodson got a taste of what his NFL career would be like while still in college. He won a National Championship and the Heisman Trophy while playing for the University of Michigan. Since joining the NFL ranks in 1998, Woodson has been named the Defensive Rookie of the Year, been selected to eight Pro Bowl’s and is a seven-time All-Pro. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 while helping the Green Bay Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XLV. With 56 interceptions and 13 touchdowns, Woodson is sure to find himself in Canton someday.