INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – In what is getting to be an annual occurrence, the Indianapolis Colts are well-represented on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 nominee list.
Among the 94 individuals are four prominent Colts: running back Edgerrin James, safety Bob Sanders, offensive lineman Chris Hinton and center Ray Donaldson. James is in his third year of eligibility and reached the Final 15 in February while Sanders is in his first year of eligibility.
The list will be pared to 25 semifinalists in November and further trimmed to 15 finalists in January. The Class of 2017 will be selected in Houston Feb. 4, the day before Super Bowl LI.
The 48-member Selection Committee – we are a member – will debate the merits of the 15 modern-day finalists along with senior finalist, safety Kenny Easley, and contributor finalists, Jerry Jones and Paul Tagliabue.
The Colts have figured prominently in recent Hall of Fame discussions. Marvin Harrison and Tony Dungy were members of the Class of 2016 while Bill Polian was included in the Class of 2015.
And now, the merits of James, Sanders, Hinton and Donaldson will be considered.
James is the Colts’ career rushing leader (9,226 yards) and his 12,246 yards are 11th most in NFL history.
Current Colts running back Frank Gore visited with James in Canton, Ohio in August when Harrison and Dungy were inducted. They are products of the University of Miami, and close.
“That’s my brother. I love Edge,’’ Gore said. “He’s getting in there (the Hall of Fame).’’
Of the top 15 rushers in NFL history, 12 already are in the Hall of Fame. The three exceptions: James, Gore (No. 14 with 12,099 yards) and LaDainian Tomlinson (No. 5 with 13,684). This is Tomlinson’s first year of eligibility.
Sanders is one of the most impactful safeties in Colts history. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2007, selected to two Pro Bowls during his seven-year career with the team and instrumental in the team’s ’06 playoff drive that ended with it defeating the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
The issue with Sanders was his health. He missed 64 of a possible 112 regular-season games, the equivalent of four seasons.
The positional breakdown of the 94 modern-day nominees (x-denotes a finalist in 2016; y-denotes first year of eligibility):
Quarterbacks (7): Drew Bledsoe, Randall Cunningham, Doug Flutie, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Phil Simms, Kurt Warner-x.
Running backs (13): Shaun Alexander, Ottis Anderson, Tiki Barber, Larry Centers, Roger Craig, Terrell Davis-x, Eddie George, Edgerrin James-x, Daryl Johnston, Eric Metcalf, LaDainian Tomlinson-y, Hershel Walker, Ricky Watters.
Wide receivers (10): Isaac Bruce, Henry Ellard, Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason, Terrell Owens-x, Sterling Sharpe, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Hines Ward-y.
Tight ends (1): Mark Bavaro.
Offensive linemen (14): Tony Boselli, Ray Donaldson, Alan Faneca-x, Jay Hilgenberg, Chris Hinton, Kent Hull, Joe Jacoby-x, Mike Kenn, Olin Kreutz-y, Jim Lachey, Kevin Mawae, Tom Nalen, Nate Newton, Steve Wisniewski.
Defensive linemen (5): Leslie O’Neal, Simeon Rice, Fred Smerlas, Jason Taylor-y, Bryant Young.
Linebackers (11): Carl Banks, Cornelius Bennett, Tedy Bruschi, Seth Joyner, Levon Kirkland, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest, Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, Joey Porter-y, Zach Thomas.
Defensive backs (16): Eric Allen, Steve Atwater-x, Joey Browner, LeRoy Butler, Brian Dawkins-y, Rodney Harrison, Ty Law, Albert Lewis, John Lynch-x, Frank Minnifield, Bob Sanders-y, Darren Sharper, Dennis Smith, Troy Vincent, Everson Walls, Darren Woodson.
Kickers/punters (4): Morten Andersen-x, Gary Anderson, Sean Landeta, Nick Lowery.
Special teams (2): Brian Mitchell, Steve Tasker.
Coaches (11): Don Coryell-x, Bill Cowher, Tom Flores, Mike Holmgren, Jimmy Johnson, Chuck Knox, Buddy Parker, Richie Petitbon, Dan Reeves, Clark Shaughnessy, Dick Vermeil.