Zach Thomas, Sam Mills, LeRoy Butler are Hall of Fame finalists for first time

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the modern-era finalists for the Class of 2020 on Thursday night.

Seven of the 15 finalists made the list for the first time.

The inclusion of first-year eligible players Troy Polamalu and Reggie Wayne was expected. They were joined by five others who previously were eligible for the Hall of Fame but had never advanced beyond semifinalist.

Safety LeRoy Butler, receiver Torry Holt, linebackers Sam Mills and Zach Thomas and defensive tackle Bryant Young will have their cases discussed for the first time when the selection committee meets the day before Super Bowl LIV.

Mills is in his 18th year of eligibility, Butler his 14th, Bryant his eighth, Thomas his seventh and Holt his sixth.

49ers General Manager John Lynch, a safety with the Bucs and Broncos, is a finalist for a seventh time, the most among any of the finalists.

A maximum of five modern-era players will earn election into Canton his year, joining a Centennial Class of seniors, coaches and contributors.

The modern-era finalists were determined by a mail-in vote of the selection committee. An original list of 122 nominees was paired to 25 semifinalists in November.

The 2020 Modern-Era Player Finalists with their positions, years and teams:

Steve Atwater, Safety – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets

Tony Boselli, Tackle – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars

Isaac Bruce, Wide Receiver – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers

LeRoy Butler, Safety – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers

Alan Faneca, Guard – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals

Torry Holt, Wide Receiver – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars

Steve Hutchinson, Guard – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans

Edgerrin James, Running Back – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks

John Lynch, Free Safety – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos

Sam Mills, Linebacker – 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers

Troy Polamalu, Safety – 2003-2014 Pittsburgh Steelers

Richard Seymour, Defensive End/Defensive Tackle – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders

Zach Thomas, Linebacker – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys

Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver – 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts

Bryant Young, Defensive Tackle – 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers

70 responses to “Zach Thomas, Sam Mills, LeRoy Butler are Hall of Fame finalists for first time

  1. My Top Five from this list:
    1. Isaac Bruce (he’s not in yet?)
    2. John Lynch (same, what’s taking so long?)
    3. Zach Thomas (Just so good for so long)
    4. Sam Mills (Should have been appreciated more earlier on)
    5. Tony Boselli (short career, but it was dominate – give him the Terrell Davis treatment)

  2. Going to be some really good debates with this class! Hutch, Lynch and Polamalu right off the bat for me then maybe Atwater and Thomas. But you could argue a lot of others for the other two spots.

  3. It would be a travesty if Leroy Butler or John Lynch get in before Steve Atwater. He should have been in already. Zach Thomas, while really good, could not hold a candle to Randy Gradishar. Yes, I am a homer. Look at the stats. I am not wrong.

  4. I’m rooting for Richard Seymour-who sacrificed Stats for team-and has three SuperBowl rings to show for it.

  5. The Broncos continue to be under represented, I don’t classify players who played more years with another team as going in as a Bronco.

    If nothing else Randy Gradishar and Karl Mecklenburg deserve to be in.
    So the list is
    John Elway
    Floyd Little
    Shannon Sharpe
    Terrel Davis
    Champ Bailey

  6. I’d like to see Zach Thomas get in. During the late 90’s/early 2000’s, he was a force in the middle of a good Fins defense. He was easily a top five middle linebacker in his prime.

    Good candidates overall, but there will always be omissions unfortunately.

  7. Zach Thomas deserves this, if you look at his numbers over the years they are real close to Brian Urlachers and Brian was a 1st ballot HOFer. Zach played on some terrible teams but that should not detract from what he was able to accomplish.

  8. fatcamper wrote:
    “Bizzaro world in which Lynch and Butler are held in higher regard than Woodson.”

    Which Woodson are you referring to? Rod Woodson is already in the HOF. Charles Woodson isn’t eligible yet, as I think his first regular ballot appearance will be in 2020 or 2021.

  9. Butler was a stopper. He was the “Brett Favre” of the Packer defense. Plus, he should get in for inventing the Lambeau Leap alone.

  10. The HOF has no meaning for me. If they couldn’t put one of three greatest players from the 70’s in with the seniors class because of their anti-Bengal bias, then I have no interest in it. Ken Anderson, Ken Riley, and Isaac Curtis are three of the greatest players to play and are far more deserving than other players already in and deserve their recognition.

  11. To me, I’m not sure there is a lock on the board. So a lot of “borderline” guys will probably get in this year. My list

    Wayne
    Polamalu
    Seymour
    Bruce
    Take your pick between Faneca/Boselli/Hutchinson (don’t see more than 1 OL getting in)

    Even those guys, I consider every one of them borderline. In a stronger class, I wouldn’t put any of them in, most likely. Nobody else in that list is a hall of famer. Some very good players in there, but nobody I consider to be an all-time type player

  12. You forgot the 3 years Sam Mills played in the USFL. It’s not the NFL Hall of Fame. Do better.

    If Sam Mills had been 3 inches taller, he’d be in already.

  13. Polamalu is as strong as a lock as there is for the HOF. One of the all-time best at his position. Atwater deserves to be in the HOF too. Faneca wrote the book for all pulling guards.

  14. I have been a Patriots season ticket holder for 40+ years and never was all that impressed with Richard Seymour. Good player? Yes. Hall of Famer? I never thought that while I was watching him.

  15. Atwater should have been in a long time ago. Nobody liked catching passes over the middle when he was playing he was terrifying.

  16. raggard says:
    January 2, 2020 at 7:37 pm
    Zach Thomas deserves this, if you look at his numbers over the years they are real close to Brian Urlachers and Brian was a 1st ballot HOFer. Zach played on some terrible teams but that should not detract from what he was able to accomplish.

    9 4

    ——————-

    Agreed, but a guy named Bruschi has a resume rivaling Nick Buonoconti.

    Time to play fair when discussing resumes.

    Rodney Harrison has to be in as well, long before overrated Polamalu or LeRoy Butler.

  17. 305Rayman305 says:
    January 2, 2020 at 6:56 pm
    My Top Five from this list:

    2. John Lynch (same, what’s taking so long?)
    ————————-
    Rodney Harrison, “Hold my beer”.

  18. What a joke. Torry Holt was 9th in receiving yards when he retired. Wayne was 7th when he retired.

    Where is Henry Ellard? He was 3rd when he retired and has more yards than Holt. He has more all purpose yards than Bruce, Wayne or Holt.

    Ellard played before the big passing era (there were only 2 QBs with more than 50,000 yards passing – Marino and Elway, now there are 10).

  19. Sam Mills is the best LB’r the casual fan never heard of. I bet most modern day players never heard of him. Maybe… ‘that short guy in Orleans’. Guy was a beast.

    That team had great LBr’s. I can only imagine what LT would have done in and to and with NO had they selected him over Rogers. I understand the pick. Rogers actually had a pretty good career. Would have been awesome on a better team. But I guess most everyone would be.

    PS: Mills deserved to be in long ago as does E. James. As does Kenny Anderson.

  20. Zach was great for alot of years but he played at the same time as Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher and they got all the middle linebacker media hype

  21. I don’t care who you are, if you don’t think Sam Mills deserves to be in then you don’t know the game of American football. There’s nothing more to say.

  22. As a steelers fan, ofcourse I hope Troy P and Alan Fenceca get in but I loved watching Leroy Butler and Zach Thomas play football in the 90s. When Tony Boseli was healthy he was the best tackle in the game by far.

  23. Bryant Young was a beast a few less sacks than Sapp but, but way more run stuffs through double and triple coverage.

    BY deserves a bust.

  24. shoopk says:
    January 2, 2020 at 7:14 pm
    No Steve Tasker? Wow!!!
    ————————————————
    The BEST special teams player of all time and still gets no respect.Just not fair to the guy

  25. tylawspick6 says:
    January 2, 2020 at 8:36 pm
    raggard says:
    January 2, 2020 at 7:37 pm
    Zach Thomas deserves this, if you look at his numbers over the years they are real close to Brian Urlachers and Brian was a 1st ballot HOFer. Zach played on some terrible teams but that should not detract from what he was able to accomplish.

    9 4

    ——————-

    Agreed, but a guy named Bruschi has a resume rivaling Nick Buonoconti.

    Time to play fair when discussing resumes.

    Rodney Harrison has to be in as well, long before overrated Polamalu or LeRoy Butler.

    xxxxxxxx

    Butler isnt overrated. If anything he is underrated. Him and Harrison have similar stats even though Harrison played 3 seasons longer. Both have better stats than Polamalu

  26. I seriously think that Canton is turning into the NBA HoF. Everyone eventually gets in. If the bar says 100 people *could be* then the bar is set too low. Honor the greats in different ways.

  27. Troy Polamalu and the 3 O-lineman would have my vote. Sam Mills or Zach Thomas didn’t strike me as great hall of fame types during their playing days. Undersized second level tackle machines to be sure but not HoF and I’m sorry but a great speech and tragic ending doesn’t equal HoF. Terrell Owens taught me that off the field stuff doesn’t matter.

  28. It’s a travesty that Darren Woodson is not on this list, and that he hasn’t been selected yet. 3 Super Bowl rings, 5 Pro Bowl appearances and 4 First Team All-Pro selections. Was equally as good defending the run and the pass, and was a leader on that Cowboys’ defense – and had cornerback speed.

    Just as bad not seeing Steve Tasker on the list. One of the all-time best Special Teams players, and does not get the respect he deserves. A 7-time First Team All-Pro selection shows how much he dominated his role across the league. A lack of respect for him and the role of special teams by not putting him in there.

  29. Why isn’t Jim Marshall on the senior list???
    282 consecutive games. As Bud Grant said: The best player I ever coached. And that’s coming from one of two people in the CFL HOF and the PFHOF. The Iron Man should get his due!

  30. No one in that group should be considered worthy of HOF induction, but five will probably get in because the HOF voters suck at that job.

    HOF should be for true greats – Jim Brown, Unitas, Butkus, Montana, Rice, Peyton Manning, Brady, etc., and not for this group of good to very good.

  31. Harrison gets into the hall of very good. Bruschi? Nope. Average player utilized the right way. He averaged 83 tackles a season. Cornelius Bennett needs to get In way for bruschi and I think Bennett makes the hall of very good not fame

  32. hess97 says:

    Bryant Young was a beast a few less sacks than Sapp but, but way more run stuffs through double and triple coverage.

    BY deserves a bust.
    ******************************************************
    this selection blows my mind, he was a very good player but not Hall of Fame worthy…..come on NFL Selection Committee, smarten up!

  33. As a Cowboy fan, It was clear to all of us what Bryant Young meant to the 49ers. As Captain of that defence he set the tone. A quiet leader who showed a team full of me first attitudes how to lead by example. The legendary Cowboys offensive line had to always double BY. Listen to Nate Newton or Mark Stepnoski on the subject. Bryant also had a mid-career threatening injury (he got Theismanned). Within a year, he was all the way back to All Pro level again. Inspirational story. The anti T.O.

  34. The bar keeps getting lowered every year and why does Tony Boselli keep getting considered? On potential and a strong lobbying campaign from who knows where I suppose.

  35. Butler was the best safety on that list. He did it all – interceptions, sacks, tackles, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries. He was the key to Fritz Shumer’s defense in Green Bay.

  36. Reggie Wayne, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce are all good players but I don’t think any are HOF worthy. Polamalu is an all-time great safety and deserves to get in.

  37. Rodney Harrison has to be in as well, long before overrated Polamalu or LeRoy Butler.
    =====

    Butler – 4x 1st Team All-Pro, 1990s All-Decade Team

    Polamalu – 2010 NFL DPOY, 4x 1st Team All-Pro 2000s, All-Decade Team

    Rodney Harrison – 2x 1st Team All-Pro, NOT on an All-Decade Team

    Butler (1990-2001) and Polamalu (2004-2013) were Harrisons contemporaries (1994-2008) BOTH were better players.

  38. Darren Woodson is/was criminally underrated
    =====

    I don’t understand the love for Lynch.

    Atwater, Butler and Woodson were all better players in the same era.

  39. Butler was the best safety on that list. He did it all – interceptions, sacks, tackles, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries. He was the key to Fritz Shumer’s defense in Green Bay.
    =====

    Their 2 Super Bowls seasons he was the teams best defender… on a D that featured REGGIE WHITE…

  40. “Butler was the best safety on that list. He did it all – interceptions, sacks, tackles, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries. He was the key to Fritz Shumer’s defense in Green Bay.”

    Agreed. In addition to that, if you compare his stats people would see that Butler had more All-Pro nominations than Atwater, Lynch, Harrison, or D. Woodson (same # as Polamalu). Butler had more interceptions than all of them. He had more sacks than all of them except Harrison.

  41. Let’s be honest, one of the main reasons Troy Polamalu is regarded as high as he is (possibly over those with better stats) is because he endeared fans with his flowing locks of hair. Was he good, yes. Were there other players who were better with short hair and more deserving to get in? Most definitely.

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