Three players in their first year of eligibility, including one of the all-time league leaders, one of the future all-time league leaders and one of the all-time specials greats in the league, reach the 2022 Pro Football Hall of Fame Finals.
Defensive end/outside quarterback DeMarcus Ware, wide receiver Andre Johnson and wide receiver/returner Devin Hester are among the 15 finalists, which was announced Thursday. This is the third time in the past five years that at least three of the finalists are players in their first year of eligibility.
Up to five finalists will be selected next month for the 2022 Class Hall. The Class of 2022 honoring ceremony, in Canton, Ohio, is expected in August, but exact dates have not been announced yet.
Late wide receiver Cliff Branch has already been named as the Seniors’ finalist, Dick Vermeil as the coach’s finalist and former referee Art McNally as the contributor’s finalist.
The three first-year qualifiers were selected in the 20 Pro Bowls combined, and Hester retired as the NFL’s all-time captain in the Special Tag Team Championships (20) as well as the all-time re-match record holder in one (four) season. They join defensive end Jared Allen, Willie Anderson tackle, linebacker/safety Ronde Barber, tackle Tony Bocelli, Leroy Butler safety, wide receiver Tori Holt, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive end/tackle Richard Seymour, linebacker Zach Thomas and wide receiver Reggie Wayne. , full-back Patrick Willis and a defensive tackle / Bryant Young end.
If Ware, Johnson or Hester are selected for the honor, this will be the ninth consecutive year that at least one player has been consecrated in the first year of eligibility. The 2022 Hall of Fame class will be revealed on February 10 during the NFL Honors Show.
Ware was a nine-time Pro Bowl pick in his career with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos. He’s ninth ever in the sacks – since it became an official stat in 1982 – with 138.5 and was a starter in the Super Bowl 50 winner of the Broncos.
Johnson, a seven-time Pro Bowl pick for the Houston Texans, has led the league twice in receiving yards (he appeared back in 2008 and 2009) and is eleventh all-time in both receptions (1,062) and receiving yards (14, 185). Hester, who has starred in the Chicago Bears and the Atlanta Falcons, is one of the rare finalists whose career has been built primarily on excellence on special teams. He is a player of all decade twice (2000 and 2010).
Boselli reached the final for the sixth time – the most of any player in a group this year – while Seymour reached the final for the fourth time. Butler, Mills, Thomas, Holt and Wayne reached the finals for the third time. The late Mills, who died in 2005, is in his final year of eligibility as a modern-day candidate, and will join the seniors’ group next year if he is not selected for honor.
Butler, the only player to have had at least 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in his career, is the only first-team named to the All-Decade team in the 1990s that was not honored. Fellow safety Steve Atwater, named in the 2020 Hall’s Class, was the only other first-team squad of all decade not to be honored prior to the double celebration last summer.