Pro Football Hall of Fame elects six members for 2012; Aaron Rodgers, Terrell Suggs named NFL players of year
By Mark Maske,
INDIANAPOLIS — Running back Curtis Martin, the fourth-leading rusher in NFL history, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame here Saturday as part of a six-member class.
Defensive linemen Chris Doleman and Cortez Kennedy, offensive linemen Dermontti Dawson and Willie Roaf, as well as Jack Butler, a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1950s, also were selected by the media members who serve as Hall of Fame voters. Enshrinement ceremonies are scheduled for August in Canton, Ohio.
Dick Stanfel, a guard who finished his career with three seasons with the Washington Redskins in the 1950s, was among the finalists who failed to gain election. Stanfel, like Butler, was a nominee of the seniors committee. Former coach Bill Parcells, former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. and former players Cris Carter, Jerome Bettis and Charles Haley were among the modern-era finalists passed over Saturday.
The Hall of Fame selections were made as part of a busy Super Bowl eve on which the major award winners for this season also were announced. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named most valuable player and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs won the defensive player of the year award.
Martin ran for more than 14,000 yards in 11 seasons for the New England Patriots and New York Jets between 1995 and 2005. He ranks behind only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders on the NFL’s career rushing list.
“I feel tremendously grateful for all the players that I played with and all the coaches that coached me throughout my career,” Martin said. “I guess the bittersweet part of it is Parcells [not being elected]. He meant so much to my career. Without him, my career would not even have been 30 percent of what it was.”
It was a good day for linemen. Doleman, a defensive end, was a relentless pass rusher who had 1501 / 2 sacks in 15 seasons, 10 of them with the Minnesota Vikings, in the ’80s and ’90s.
“When they call your name, you’re absolutely numb,” Doleman said.
Kennedy was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection as a defensive tackle for the Seattle Seahawks between the 1990 and 2000 seasons.
“It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world,” Kennedy said. “I thought I was supposed to get a call. I didn’t get a call. I had to watch it on TV.”
Dawson played center for the Steelers between 1988 and 2000. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls and played in 170 straight games. He succeeded another Hall of Famer, Mike Webster, as the Steelers’ center.
“I knew I had big shoes to fill,” Dawson said. “I never thought I would be in this position after my career. . . . It was just an honor to learn from Mike my rookie year.”
Roaf was an 11-time Pro Bowler in 13 seasons as an offensive tackle for the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs between 1993 and 2005.
Stanfel played for the Redskins between 1956 and ’58 after beginning his NFL career with four seasons with the Detroit Lions. He and Butler, as the seniors nominees, automatically were included in the final round of voting at Saturday’s selection meeting, but Stanfel failed to get the necessary votes while Butler was elected.
“They told me I was good,” said Butler, who played nine seasons for the Steelers between 1951 and ’59 and had 52 interceptions. “I never knew I was good. I must have done something right or I wouldn’t be here.”
DeBartolo, who owned the 49ers for five Super Bowl triumphs, was eliminated from consideration when the voters trimmed the list of modern-era finalists from 15 to 10, along with Bettis, Tim Brown, Kevin Greene and Will Shields. Parcells, who coached four different teams to the playoffs and won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants, was eliminated in the cut from 10 to five modern-era finalists, along with Carter, Haley, Andre Reed and Aeneas Williams.
Rodgers outdistanced fellow quarterback Drew Brees of New Orleans for his first MVP award. Rodgers had the highest single-season passer rating in league history as the Packers won their first 13 games on their way to a 15-1 regular season record. They lost an NFC semifinal to the Giants but the voting was based on regular season results only.
Rodgers received 48 of 50 votes by media members for the award, given by the Associated Press. The other two MVP votes went to Brees, who was named the offensive player of the year after setting single-season NFL records for passing yards and completion percentage.
Suggs had 14 sacks and forced seven fumbles on his way to winning the top-defender award. In other awards, San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh was named the coach of the year. In his rookie season as an NFL coach, Harbaugh led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and the second seed in the NFC playoffs. He inherited a team that had gone 6-10 last season.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was named the offensive rookie of the year and Denver linebacker Von Miller was the defensive rookie of the year. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was named the comeback player of the year and Ravens center Matt Birk was honored as the Walter Payton NFL man of the year for accomplishments both on and off the field.
For the first time, the awards were announced as part of a televised special carried on NBC after the ceremonies were taped earlier in the evening in downtown Indianapolis.
Related: Many rooting against New York, Boston in Super Bowl Patriots’ Welker doesn’t mind lack of attention