The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s annual journey toward its next group of Gold Jacket recipients — this one the Class of 2018 — took another step Tuesday when the roster of candidates was reduced to 25 semifinalists — plus two.
The remaining hopefuls include six first-time eligible candidates: cornerback/safety Ronde Barber, guard Steve Hutchinson, linebackers Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, wide receiver Randy Moss and defensive end/tackle Richard Seymour.
Rules call for the selection of 25 semifinalists, but the reduction votes by the selection committee resulted in a tie for the 25th spot, so all three former players move on.
Aside from the first-year eligibles, safety LeRoy Butler, defensive ends Leslie ONeal and Simeon Rice and cornerback Everson Walls became semifinalists for the first time although they were previously eligible.
The group of semifinalists includes 25 players: 12 on offense, 13 on defense and two coaches.
In January, the group will be trimmed to 15 modern-era finalists. All 10 of the finalists from 2017 are semifinalists again. Of that group, coach Don Coryell and safety John Lynch have been finalists four times; guard Alan Faneca, tackle Joe Jacoby and wide receiver Terrell Owens two times; and tackle Tony Boselli, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, safety Brian Dawkins, cornerback Ty Law and center-guard Kevin Mawae once.
Four other semifinalists have also been a finalist once, but werent last year: Safety Steve Atwater, 2016; running backs Roger Craig, 2010 and Edgerrin James, 2016; and coach Jimmy Johnson, 2015.
In addition to the 15 finalists, two senior players and one contributor will have their merits discussed “in the room” — as the final debate is known — by the full Selection Committee at their annual dawn-to-dusk meeting on Saturday, February 3, 2018 in Minneapolis, the day before Super Bowl LII.
Already nominated by selection subcommittees are senior finalists Robert Brazile (linebacker, 1975-84 Houston Oilers) and Jerry Kramer (guard, 1958-68 Green Bay Packers) and contributor Bobby Beathard, a personnel executive for the Kansas City Chiefs (1966-67), Atlanta Falcons (1968-71) and Miami Dolphins (1972-77), and general manager for the Washington Redskins (1978-88) and San Diego Chargers (1990-99).
Brazile, Kramer and Beathard will be voted on separately and, like all other finalists, must receive at least 80 percent positive votes from the full Selection Committee.
To be eligible for consideration, a player or coach must not have participated for five consecutive seasons. The list of semifinalists was reduced from an initial group of 108 nominees.
Below is the list of 2018 Modern-Era semifinalists, including positions, years of participation and teams. Also listed are the number of times and years that each was named a semifinalist since this reduction vote was added to the Selection Committee Bylaws in 2004.
–Steve Atwater, Safety — 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets; (times as a semifinalist: 7 — 2012-18)
–Ronde Barber, Cornerback/Safety 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; (times as a semifinalist: 1 2018)
–Tony Boselli, Tackle — 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve); (times as a semifinalist: 3 — 2016-18)
–Isaac Bruce, Wide receiver — 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers; (times as a semifinalist: 4 — 2015-18)
–LeRoy Butler, Safety – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers; (times as a semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
–Don Coryell, Coach — 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers; (times as a semifinalist: 10 — 2005, 2010-18)
–Roger Craig, Running back — 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings; (times as a semifinalist: 10 — 2009-18).
–Brian Dawkins, Safety, 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos; (times as a semifinalist: 2 2017-18)
–Alan Faneca, Guard — 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals; (times as a semifinalist: 3 — 2016-18)
–Torry Holt, Wide receiver — 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars; (times as a semifinalist: 4 — 2015-18)
–Steve Hutchinson, Guard 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans; (times as a semifinalist: 1 2018)
–Joe Jacoby, Tackle — 1981-1993 Washington Redskins; (times as a semifinalist: 8 — 2005, 2008, 2013-18)
–Edgerrin James, Running back — 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks; (times as a semifinalist: 4 — 2015-18)
–Jimmy Johnson, Coach — 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins; (times as a semifinalist: 5 — 2014-18)
–Ty Law, Cornerback — 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos; (times as a semifinalist: 4 — 2015-18)
–Ray Lewis, Linebacker 1996-2012 Baltimore Ravens; (times as a semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
–John Lynch, Safety — 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos; (times as a semifinalist: 6 — 2013-18)
–Kevin Mawae, Center/guard — 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans; (times as a semifinalist: 4 — 2015-18)
–Karl Mecklenburg, Linebacker — 1983-1994 Denver Broncos; (times as a semifinalist: 7 — 2012-18)
–Randy Moss, Wide receiver 1998-2004, 2010 Minnesota Vikings, 2005-06 Oakland Raiders, 2007-2010 New England Patriots, 2010 Tennessee Titans, 2012 San Francisco 49ers; (times as a semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
–Leslie ONeal, Defensive end 1986, 1988-1995 San Diego Chargers, 1996-97 St. Louis Rams, 1998-99 Kansas City Chiefs (times as a semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
–Terrell Owens, Wide receiver — 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals; (times as a semifinalist: 3 — 2016-18)
–Simeon Rice, Defensive end 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-2006 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts; (times as a semifinalist: 1- 2018)
–Richard Seymour, Defensive end/tackle 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders; (times as a semifinalist: 1 2018)
–Brian Urlacher, Linebacker 2000-2012 Chicago Bears; times as a semifinalist: 1 – 2018)
–Everson Walls, Cornerback 1981-89 Dallas Cowboys, 1990-92 New York Giants, 1992-93 Cleveland Browns; (times as a semifinalist: 1 2018)
–Hines Ward, Wide receiver — 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers; (times as a semifinalist: 2 2017-18)
Seven of the 27 semifinalists spent their entire career with one team: Barber, Butler, Jacoby, Lewis, Mecklenburg, Urlacher and Ward.
(Howard Balzer, senior editor and writer for The Sports Xchange, is in his fifth decade covering pro football and is a selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a member of the Contributors Subcommittee)