Saturday, August 4, 2012

Meet the Class of 2012 (Cont'd)

Today we meet the remaining three players to be inducted into the Hall of Fame today.  First, though, I’ll take a moment to explain how players are selected to the Hall of Fame.

The 2012 Hall of Fame Class


A player, coach, or anyone associated with professional football is eligible for consideration for enshrinement five years after he has retired from the profession.  Anyone—fans, members of the media, other players or coaches—can send names to the Hall of Fame for consideration by the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee (more on these people to follow).  The Committee screens, via mail ballot, these submissions to narrow them down to a list of 17 finalists:  15 candidates from the “modern” era; and two from the pre-1988 period (the so-called “senior nominees”), who are chosen by the Seniors Committee, composed of nine veterans of the Selection Committee.  Each year, at the time of the Super Bowl, the Selection Committee meets to select the inductees for that year; to be selected, the name must receive at least 80% of the Committee’s votes.  The Committee’s current rules provide that between four and seven new members are to be enshrined each year.

So, who are the people that make up the Selection Committee?  They are, for better or worse, members of the media:  one representative from each city with a professional football team (New York City gets two because it has two teams); one representative from the Pro Football Writers of America; and eleven at-large members—44 in all.  Much like the Supreme Court, all members (except for the PFWA rep) are on the Selection Committee until they retire or resign (or die); the PFWA rep is on for a two-year term.

Now, back to this year’s Hall of Fame class…


Along with Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf is a native of Arkansas (Pine Bluff).  Though not heavily recruited out of high school, Roaf received a scholarship to play offensive tackle at Louisiana Tech University.  Willie excelled at his position, receiving first-team All-American honors and becoming a finalist for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to college’s best offensive lineman.  The New Orleans Saints drafted him early in the first round of the 1993 draft (eighth overall). 

Remember the attributes we discussed yesterday for what makes an offensive lineman stand out for Hall of Fame voters?  As for reputation, Roaf (nicknamed “Nasty”) was named to seven Pro Bowls while with the Saints, and earned that honor each of his four years with the Kansas City Chiefs.  He’s been named to the NFL’s All-Decade Teams for the 1990s and 2000s, and has already been elected to the sports halls of fame for Arkansas and Louisiana.  As for longevity and consistency, you can’t argue with a 12-year tenure and a games-played total of 189 (he was a starter in all of them).  For his presenter, Roaf picked his father, Clinton Roaf.  Willie says that his dad only missed one of his home games throughout college and the pros (the one miss was because Willie’s brother had a game the same day).


Chris Doleman, a native of Pennsylvania, attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he was a star linebacker and defensive end.  He was drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1985 draft.  Chris spent most of his career with the Vikings, through the 1993 season.  Doleman originally played as a linebacker in the team’s 3-4 defense, and then as defensive end when the Vikings switched to a 4-3 defense.  At defensive end he hit his stride, recording 21 sacks in 1989 (a Vikings record that held for 22 years), which is fourth highest all-time in the NFL.

Doleman played for the Atlanta Falcons in the 1994 and 1995 seasons, then the San Francisco 49ers from 1996 through 1998.  He returned to the Vikings in 1999 and retired after the season.  In his 14-year career, Doleman had 150.5 sacks, eight interceptions and two touchdowns; he earned eight Pro Bowl selections, was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team and has been named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings.  Chris’s son, Evan Doleman, will be his presenter at the enshrinement ceremony. 

To give you an idea of how much being elected to the Hall of Fame means to these players, here is a video, shared by Doleman, of the moment when he and his family heard the announcement that he would be inducted:


Our last member of the Class of 2012 is its most senior—in fact, he is the senior selection.  Yet another Pennsylvania native in the 2012 class, Jack Butler attended St. Bonaventure University, where he played both offensive and defensive end.  In 1951, Butler was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent.  As a member of the Steelers, Jack was a cornerback and sometimes played wide receiver.  Butler played for the Steelers for his entire eight-year career.  During that time, he led the league in interceptions for the 1957 season, was named to four straight Pro Bowls, and amassed 52 interceptions, which was the second highest all-time at the time of his retirement.  Butler was also named to the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team and the Pittsburgh Steelers Legends Team.

Induction to the Hall of Fame sometimes isn’t just about a player’s performance on the field; all of the individual’s contributions to the sport are considered.  After his retirement from the Steelers, Jack Butler spent 46 years (44 as director) with the BLESTO Scouting Combine.  He was involved with developing the vital Combine process that is used to evaluate draft-hopeful players coming out of college.  Over his career in scouting, Jack Butler scouted and evaluated over 75,000 college athletes.  Jack’s presenter at tonight’s ceremony will be his son, John.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the 2012 class of Hall of Fame inductees.  Be sure to tune in tonight at 7:00 PM ET for the enshrinement ceremony on NFL Network.

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