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2011 Hall of Fame class has a little of everything

Hall of Fame AP

One of the reasons to like the 2011 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame is that the seven men being inducted today encapsulate every aspect of NFL greatness: Flashy offensive playmakers and hard-hitting defenders. Players who entered the league as stars and players who had to fight just to make a roster. Old-school veterans who have been largely forgotten by today’s fans, and modern players who ushered in a new era of NFL stardom.

Plus the man who did more than anyone to document the NFL’s history.

Here’s our primer on the seven men whose Hall of Fame busts will be unveiled this evening in Canton, Ohio:

Richard Dent was a key member of the great 1985 Bears team, recording a league-leading 17 sacks that season and turning in a three-sack performance in Super Bowl XX, earning him the game’s MVP award. Few players in all of football caused opposing teams as much concern as Dent, who was a major threat to every quarterback he faced. Dent had more than 10 sacks in eight different seasons with the Bears.

Marshall Faulk was a unique offensive threat in NFL history: There may never have been a player who could be so productive as a runner while simultaneously being a serious deep threat as a receiver. Everyone remembers that Faulk was a great player on a great team when he got to the Rams in 1999, but it’s often overlooked that he was also a great player on a bad team with the Colts before that: Sports Illustrated proclaimed him the best player in football when he led the league in scrimmage yards with the 3-13 Colts in 1998. Faulk is one of only two players ever to have 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, and the only player ever to have more than 12,000 rushing yards and more than 6,000 receiving yards in his career.

Chris Hanburger was an 18th round pick of the Redskins in the 1965 NFL Draft, and he didn’t just make the team: He quickly became a team leader and the defensive signal caller. Hall of Fame offensive lineman John Hannah once called Hanburger “the smartest player in the league,” but he wasn’t just a cerebral player. He was also a vicious hitter who earned the nickname The Hangman.

Les Richter was a star guard and linebacker at Cal in the early 1950s and the Dallas Texans selected him second overall pick in the 1952 NFL draft. He served in the Army for two years before heading to the NFL, and the Los Angeles Rams thought so highly of him that they traded 11 players to acquire him. Richter played nine seasons with the Rams as a linebacker and kicker and was chosen to eight Pro Bowls. Richter died last year at the age of 79.

Ed Sabol created something extraordinary with NFL Films. Until Sabol came along, no one ever dreamed that you could take highlights of a football game, add an operatic musical score and booming-voiced narration, and actually make it feel more exciting than the experience of watching the game live. NFL Films’ style wonderfully captures the drama of football, and Sabol had a stroke of genius when he decided to put microphones on players and coaches, showing the fans far more about what goes on at field level than they ever could have known. And don’t overlook just how much fun Sabol had with football: Before NFL Films introduced Football Follies, the concept of a blooper reel was viewed as an insult to the players whose mistakes were chronicled. But the way NFL Films presented the bloopers had everyone laughing too hard to take offense.

Deion Sanders was a star unlike anything the NFL had seen before. On the day the Falcons drafted him fifth overall he was wearing more gold around his neck than Mr. T, and he talked more about what he would do with his signing bonus than what he would do on the field. But Sanders was more substance than style: He quickly emerged as a dominant shutdown cornerback and game-changing kick returner for the Falcons, then left for the 49ers and helped them win a Super Bowl, then left for the Cowboys and helped them win a Super Bowl, too. Sanders retired after playing the 2000 season with the Redskins, then came back for two more years with the Ravens in 2004 and 2005, before finally walking away for good at the age of 38.

Shannon Sharpe was a big part of the offense on three Super Bowl-winning teams, two with the Broncos and one with the Ravens. No one could have predicted that when Sharpe entered the league as a seventh-round draft pick out of Savannah State, known mostly as the little brother of then-Packers receiver Sterling Sharpe. (Shannon said this week that he thinks he’s the only Hall of Famer who isn’t the best football player in his family.) But Sharpe quickly established himself as a great player in his own right, a powerful blocker and major receiving threat. He retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in catches (815), receiving yards (10,060) and receiving touchdowns (62) by a tight end.

That’s the class of 2011, a great cross section of NFL greatness.

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39 Responses to “2011 Hall of Fame class has a little of everything”
  1. mataug says: Aug 6, 2011 2:52 PM

    Well put and it is a class that many of us ‘young ones’ can identify themselves with.

    PS – Marshall Faulk is the kind of player I want on my Madden team.

  2. youboettcha says: Aug 6, 2011 2:56 PM

    Sterling Sharpe should get a shot at the HOF.

  3. fuhrman says: Aug 6, 2011 3:02 PM

    Finally Dent! Also gongrats to the others.

  4. MCxShow says: Aug 6, 2011 3:03 PM

    Shannon Sharpe is such a class act, he even gave his first Super Bowl ring to his older brother for all the influence he had on him in his life. It’s unfortunate that Sterling’s career was cut way too short due to injury.

  5. iamgoodkid says: Aug 6, 2011 3:08 PM

    ok marshall faulk is in the hall of fame ok

  6. fusstr8tedfinfan says: Aug 6, 2011 3:09 PM

    Sounds like somone watched the NFL networks specials.

  7. giveseanpaytonhisjuicyfruit says: Aug 6, 2011 3:09 PM

    Not enough Willie Roaf tbh

  8. buffaloniner says: Aug 6, 2011 3:16 PM

    It makes me feel old when I see these players going into the hall of fame… Weren’t these last years inductees though? … eh whatever. Good group.

  9. beastofeden says: Aug 6, 2011 3:30 PM

    I can’t be bothered with paying homage to forefathers

  10. j972 says: Aug 6, 2011 3:31 PM

    As usual, more undeserving candidatea get enshrined. Only Faulk and Sanders deserve it.

  11. keepitsimplestoopid says: Aug 6, 2011 4:13 PM

    It’s not football related, but Sanders was a two-sport athlete, playing here in there in MLB. It’s just another “wow factor” thing he did.

    The man was insane, an incredible athlete unlike many of his peers, excet maybe Bo Jackson.

  12. buddybowl69 says: Aug 6, 2011 4:17 PM

    Pee On Deion. Diva Sanders doesn’t deserve the HOF. I’m surprised he has stayed out of prison. How can a guy that stated that he isn’t paid to tackle make it in the HOF?

  13. sportsinhd says: Aug 6, 2011 4:19 PM

    It’s still a joke to me that Shannon Sharpe wasn’t a first ballot hall of famer, and I’m a Steeler fan. The guy was just that good.

    Faulk was the best dual threat running back we’ve ever seen, and it’s a shame that he’s often forgotten when compiling a list of the all time greats. I’d rather have him over Emmitt Smith.

  14. bobnelsonjr says: Aug 6, 2011 4:26 PM

    How can you put a defender in the Hall of Fame who never made a tackle?

    I challenge anyone to post a link to a video of Sanders making a tackle.

  15. vendictar says: Aug 6, 2011 4:29 PM

    “As usual, more undeserving candidatea get enshrined. Only Faulk and Sanders deserve it.”
    ___________________________________

    Ed Sabol helped make the NFL more popular in a time when college football had a much bigger draw. Make no mistake, NFL Films played an extremely large role in shaping the league into what it is today.

    And as far as the players, they all deserve it.

    Your comment reeks of ignorance.

  16. iamthorny says: Aug 6, 2011 4:30 PM

    If John Madden is correct and the busts really do talk to each other, if I’m in this class, I’d request to have mine moved far away from his…

  17. iamthorny says: Aug 6, 2011 4:31 PM

    I referenced Deion’s bust in the post above…either that or request some athletic tape for Deion’s mouth.

  18. granadafan says: Aug 6, 2011 4:36 PM

    Congrats to Les Richter!

  19. chowface86 says: Aug 6, 2011 5:03 PM

    Everyone get ready or the Ryan Mallett taking over for Brady talk…..

  20. melonnhead says: Aug 6, 2011 5:10 PM

    haha, Deion could probably walk in and take Asomugha’s job tomorrow.

    Tackles
    Deion Sanders 492
    Asomugha 271

    Forced fumbles
    Deion 10
    Aso 2

    Interceptions
    Deion 53
    Aso 11

    Punt and kick returns
    Deion 367
    Aso 1

    TDs scored
    Deion 22
    Aso 1

  21. melonnhead says: Aug 6, 2011 5:15 PM

    Faulk was the best dual threat running back we’ve ever seen

    —————————————————————–

    Maybe the best *you’ve* ever seen.

  22. mikebyrne1502 says: Aug 6, 2011 5:17 PM

    Hopefully they give a Hall Of Fame Tribute to Don Coryell, and let him in, it would be an honerable thing to do.

  23. melonnhead says: Aug 6, 2011 5:20 PM

    Shannon Sharpe is such a class act, he even gave his first Super Bowl ring to his older brother for all the influence he had on him in his life. It’s unfortunate that Sterling’s career was cut way too short due to injury.

    —————————————————————-

    Probably first in the pretty long list of guys that got jacked up hard because Favre led them into coverage.

  24. pacash80 says: Aug 6, 2011 5:25 PM

    I’m only 17 years old, and players I watched are getting inducted in the Hall of Fame now. I feel old.

  25. rcunningham says: Aug 6, 2011 5:52 PM

    Needs more Cris Carter.

  26. mrplow3 says: Aug 6, 2011 6:25 PM

    Until Cris Carter gets in the HoF is a complete and total joke.

    You do not keep a guy that retired holding every major recieving recored behind ONLY Jerry Rice out of the Hall.

    I don’t care that he played in a small market team that all the big market bandwagon fans have only watched 2 minutes of Cris’s brilliant careeer, that’s their problem.

    He was a great receiver, PERIOD.

    Put him in now.

  27. scomibord says: Aug 6, 2011 6:33 PM

    While I agree Prima-donna Time Dieon was a very good coverage CB. When is tackling NOT part of A DEFENSIVE PLAYERS’ job? Was the CB position moved to offense? Isn’t every defensive players job to tackle? Cannot say he is best ever if he cannot perform the most basic of the fundamentals of football…that is like a QB fumbling every time he goes to make a handoff, even if that QB lights up the passing game, Do you think he would be elected to the HOF? Think about it, seriously!!

  28. palmspringspackerfan says: Aug 6, 2011 6:42 PM

    Sterling Sharpe was all for Sterling with the Packers. Remember him holding the team hostage days before a season opener with the Vikings to squeeze a new contract out of the organization. Hope he NEVER gets in the hall. NOT a class act and doesn’t deserve to stand next to current Packer Hall of Famers !

  29. scomibord says: Aug 6, 2011 6:43 PM

    melonhead, where did you get your stats from? NFL.COM has dieon’s career tackles at 39….you hav over 400 nice try…collosal fail

  30. 3octaveFart says: Aug 6, 2011 6:49 PM

    Kudos to Dent, Faulk, Sanders, Sharpe & Sabol

    But WTF about Cris Crater????
    C’mon Maaaan.

  31. ninjapleazee says: Aug 6, 2011 6:51 PM

    Deion was electrifying to watch.. I just wanted him to score so he could dance his way down the sidelines.

  32. mikeypa says: Aug 6, 2011 7:27 PM

    In my opinion, people who are hating on Deion either never saw him play, or just didn’t like the way he carried himself. The man was electric, no question about it.

    Not a lot of video of him making tackles, probably because he was heading in the opposite direction with the football.

  33. dynast77 says: Aug 6, 2011 7:54 PM

    I hate it when guys from the 50s and 60s get in the HoF. If they were really that great, they’d already be in there instead of being passed-over for 40+ years. I’m sure that Chris Hanburger and Les Richter were fine players, but I’m also sure that Cris Carter’s career blew them both away!

  34. ngbradley says: Aug 6, 2011 8:03 PM

    I was watching some of the stories in this year’s inductees, and saw the story of Shannon and Sterling Sharpe. I looked up Sterling’s numbers and wondered why he isn’t considered for the Hall of Fame. I then thought: WHY THE HELL IS MICHAEL IRVIN IN THE HALL OF FAME? Can anybody answer me that? Other than ‘ the cowboys/steelers bump’?

  35. melonnhead says: Aug 6, 2011 8:54 PM

    melonhead, where did you get your stats from? NFL.COM has dieon’s career tackles at 39….you hav over 400 nice try…collosal fail

    —————————————————————-

    NFL.COM’s stats are incomplete, I assume because Sanders has been retired for years. Check Rod Woodson’s stats. NFL.com says he had one forced fumble and 207 tackles for his career. Pro-football-reference.com has the correct number (1,050 tackles and 20 forced fumbles). It’s a better site for historical stats.

    You seriously thought he only had 39 tackles in his 14 year career? I take it you never watched him play.

  36. melonnhead says: Aug 6, 2011 9:09 PM

    I was watching some of the stories in this year’s inductees, and saw the story of Shannon and Sterling Sharpe. I looked up Sterling’s numbers and wondered why he isn’t considered for the Hall of Fame. I then thought: WHY THE HELL IS MICHAEL IRVIN IN THE HALL OF FAME? Can anybody answer me that?

    —————————————————————–

    Sure. 750 catches, almost 12,000 yards, five Pro Bowls, three Super Bowl wins, All-Decade Team of the 90′s, big-time player in big games. I get what you’re saying, “Sterling deserves it more than Irvin”, but Irvin’s got 205 catches, almost 4,000 yards and over 2 yards per catch more than Sharpe not to mention the huge load of hardware so don’t even start because it’s not close.

  37. 1bigtex says: Aug 6, 2011 9:18 PM

    @scomibord

    Dude, do just a little bit of research before you run your mouth. You’ll still probably sound like a fool, but a least a moderately informed fool.

    The NFL.com site only lists Deion’s tackles for ’04 and ’05. Pro Football Reference.com lists Deion’s totals as melonhead posted.

  38. 1bigtex says: Aug 6, 2011 9:23 PM

    As to Michael Irvin being in the Hall, tell me besides Jerry Rice and Lance Alworth averaged more yards per game at WR. Go ahead, do your research. I’ll wait.

    Oh, and for our friend, scomibord, two words; COLLOSAL FAIL!

  39. melonnhead says: Aug 6, 2011 9:27 PM

    Not a lot of video of him making tackles, probably because he was heading in the opposite direction with the football.

    —————————————————————

    Yeah let’s face it, when you’re talking about a guy that has scored a TD in every way that a TD can be scored (pass reception, rush, INT return, fumble return, kickoff return, punt return), tackles aren’t going to get much time. I mean, you don’t get to register a tackle when you break up a pass play anyway.

    HOWEVER if anybody would like to see him tackle there’s a pretty good Deion Sanders Tribute video on youtube. I’d post the URL but I don’t think the post would make it through. It doesn’t show my favorite Deion tackle… 4th and 1 against the Steelers in Super Bowl 30 when he busted 240 pound Bam Morris in the mouth and stopped him short of the first down.

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