By Nathan Wright
In a nod to both the excellence of those who were in their first years of eligibility as well as those who waited some time for their turns, former Seattle Seahawks tackle Walter Jones, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks and former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan led the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2014.
Also voted in on Saturday were former wide receiver Andre Reed and cornerback Aeneas Williams, as well as defensive end Claude Humphrey and Ray Guy, the first punter ever to make the Hall.
Jones and Brooks were in their first years of eligibility. Guy and Humphrey were both finalists chosen by the Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee.
The class was selected after a nine-hour meeting of the Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors, believed to be the longest-ever meeting of the group.
Brooks was chosen for 11 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons with the Buccaneers, was a five-time first-team All Pro by the Associated Press, and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2002. He was equally respected off the field, having won the 2000 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
Brooks returned an interception for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and he returned three interceptions for touchdowns in the 2002 season.
Jones was a nine-time Pro Bowler as well as a four-time first-team All Pro selection by the AP. After the Seahawks selected Jones sixth overall in the 1997 draft, he started all 180 games he played for Seattle in his 12 seasons. He was whistled for holding only nine times in 5,703 pass plays, and allowed only 23 sacks during his entire career. He was voted to the NFL All-Decade team for the 2000s.
Reed, who had been an eight-time finalist for the Hall, was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and the Buffalo Bills' leading receiver in each of their four Super Bowl seasons. He also ranks fifth in NFL history with 85 postseason receptions and found a way to produce in a Bills offense that ran the ball 51 percent of the time during his career.
Strahan, who had his Hall of Fame credentials questioned very publicly by Warren Sapp during Super Bowl week, was a Hall finalist for the second consecutive year. Strahan, who played the left defensive end spot, was a five-time All-Pro selection and a seven-time Pro Bowler. He ranks fifth all time in sacks with 141.5, and his 22.5 sacks in 2001 set a NFL single-season record. Strahan was also selected to the NFL All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
And while the Hall voters often have made defensive players who played on teams that struggled for the bulk of their careers wait a little longer than some others, Williams' credentials were impeccable. The physical Williams was an eight-time Pro Bowl choice and a three-time All-Pro selection. Williams, who played cornerback and safety in his career, finished with 55 career interceptions, nine of which he returned for touchdowns.
His career interception total was higher than those of Deion Sanders (53) and Darrell Green (54), both Hall of Famers.
Guy now has the distinction of being the first punter to be enshrined into the Hall. His eligibility as a modern-era candidate had expired, and he now joins Jan Stenerud as the only kickers in Canton.
Humphrey was the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1968 after being the third player picked in the draft. Although the sack was not an official league statistic until 1982 after he had retired, Humphrey has since been credited with 122 during his career.