The 25 semifinalists for the Hall of Fame Class of 2021 were announced on Tuesday, headlined by some marquee players. Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, and Charles Woodson highlight the list in their first year of eligibility. Jared Allen joins that trio as another earning the honor in his first year being eligible to do so.
The 21 others include Eric Allen, Clay Matthews, Jr, Sam Mills, Willie Anderson, Richard Seymour, Ronde Barber, Steve Taskers, Cornelius Bennett, Fred Taylor, Tony Boselli, Zach Thomas, Leroy Butler, Hines Ward, Alan Faneca, Reggie Wayne, Rodney Harrison, Patrick Willis, Torry Holt, Darren Woodson, John Lynch, and Bryant Young.
The Hall of Fame's board of selectors will shrink the list to 15 finalists in the next few weeks; then the official class will be announced in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. The final class will consist of no more than five of the names listed above. Manning and Charles Woodson are considered locks by many to be enshrined in Canton next year, but the rest of the class is still debatable.
Manning, who has found life after football to be just as successful with commercials and his own show on ESPN+, was the first overall pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft. His collegiate career ended with a second-place finish in the Heisman voting, behind fellow semifinalist Charles Woodson.
Peyton would go on to have a brilliant career in Indianapolis and then Denver, where he ended his career. He won two Super Bowls, one with each franchise, earning MVP honors of Super Bowl XLI. Manning was a five-time NFL MVP, the only player in NFL history to win the award that many times. His 2013 campaign with the Broncos featured 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards, both records which still stand.
As noted, Charles Woodson won the 1997 Heisman Trophy, becoming the third Michigan player to win and the first primarily defensive player to receive the trophy. Woodson would be selected three slots after Manning in the 1998 draft by the Oakland Raiders, with whom he would play for eight seasons.
Woodson won the 1998 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award and was named the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was a Super Bowl Champion with the Green Bay Packers and twice led the league in interceptions.
Woodson returned to the Raiders for his final three seasons before retiring, and he too has found success beyond the field, working for both ESPN and Fox Sports as a football analyst.
News and Notes
For John Lynch, currently the GM of the San Francisco 49ers, this is his ninth time being on the list as a semifinalist. Former CBS analyst Steve Tasker has heard his name announced eight times, while Holt, Boselli, and Faneca have been announced at least six times as well.
The Class could potentially expand to as many as eight if Tom Flores, Bill Nunn, and Drew Pearson get the nod. Flores is a finalist from the Hall’s coaching committee, Nunn a finalist as a contributor to the game, and Pearson from the senior’s committee.