It's a first! Four surprises join Polamalu, Willis, Wayne as Hall semifinalists
The list of 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s modern-era Class of 2020 includes safety Troy Polamalu, linebacker Patrick Willis and wide receiver Reggie Wayne – all of whom are eligible for the first time. But that isn’t the surprise.
This is: Linebacker Carl Banks, defensive tackle Bryant Young and running backs Fred Taylor made it for the first time, too.
All not only have been eligible before, but this is Banks’ 20th – and last -- year as a modern-era candidate. He now becomes eligible to become one of 15 finalists for selection to the Hall when its board of selectors meets on Feb. 1, 2020, to name Canton’s Class of 2020.
The 25 semifinalists were chosen from a preliminary group of 117 and announced Tuesday afternoon.
Polamalu almost certainly will be among the 15 finalists named on Jan. 2, with the smart money on the former Pittsburgh safety making it to Canton as a first-ballot choice. If so, that would mark the fourth consecutive year that a safety has been included in Hall-of-Fame classes – with senior choice Kenny Easley beginning the run in 2017.
There have been four the past two years, including Brian Dawkins (2018), Ed Reed (2019) and Johnny Robinson (2019).
Now, before we go farther, it’s important to remember something: The modern-era class differentiates from – and, in fact, has nothing to do with – the Centennial Class of 2020. That group, chosen to honor the NFL’s 100th anniversary, is an entirely different operation, both from the board that selects it to the manner in which it is chosen.
The class is composed of 15 persons, including 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches, and will be named by a blue-ribbon panel of 25 voters chosen by the Hall’s board of directors.
However, the two classes – the modern-era Class of 2020 as well as the Centennial Class – will be formally enshrined together in Canton during its annual celebration on Aug. 6-9, 2020.
Senior candidates are defined as those not elected to Canton in their first 20 years of eligibility. Modern-era candidates are former players who have 1-20 years of eligibility, and Watters, Young and Taylor qualify.
This is Watters 14th year of eligibility, Young’s 8th and Taylor’s fifth.
All, including Banks, are longshots for Canton in 2020, and here's why: First, they must become finalists, which means surviving the cut to 15. Then, they must make the move from first-time semifinalists to the final five who comprise the modern-era Class of 2020.
And the odds there are enormous.
Defensive back Everson Walls became a first-time semifinalist in 2018, then joined 14 others as a finalist that year. But his candidacy expired when he failed to become one of the final 10 considered for election that year.
CLASS OF 2020 MODERN ERA SEMIFINALISTS
RUNNING BACK (3) – Edgerrin James, Fred Taylor, Ricky Watters.
WIDE RECEIVER (4) – Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne.
TACKLE (1) – Tony Boselli.
GUARD (2) – Alan Faneca, Steve Hutchinson.
SPECIAL TEAMS (WR/KR) (1) – Steve Tasker.
END (1) – Simeon Rice.
TACKLE (2) – Richard Seymour, Bryant Young.
LINEBACKER (5) – Carl Banks, Clay Matthews, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas, Patrick Willis.
CORNERBACK (1) – Ronde Barber.
SAFETY (5) – Steve Atwater, Leroy Butler, John Lynch, Troy Polamalu, Darren Woodson.
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