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8 with Alabama roots among Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023 nominees

AL.com 9/20/2022 Mark Inabinett, al.com

Eight players from Alabama high schools and colleges are among the 129 modern-era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2023, including two who reached finalist status for the Class of 2022.

Offensive tackle Willie Anderson and outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware did not make it through the deciding vote for the Class of 2022 inductees, and they return with running back Shaun Alexander, linebacker Cornelius Bennett, defensive end Robert Mathis, linebacker Takeo Spikes and defensive end Justin Tuck among the modern-era nominees for the Class of 2023.

Also among the Class of 2023 candidates is wide receiver Roddy White, who was a modern-era nominee for the Class of 2021 but did not appear on the list last year.

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The Pro Football Hall of Fame released the list of modern-era nominees on Tuesday. A player is considered modern era if he has been retired for at least five seasons and was active within the past 25 seasons.

Alexander (Alabama) went to the Pro Bowl in 2003, 2004 and 2005, when his career hit its peak. In 2005, Alexander won The Associated Press NFL MVP Award and the Bert Bell Award as the NFL Player of the Year as the league’s leader in rushing yards. He set an NFL single-season record with 28 touchdowns and led the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005. Alexander’s 100 rushing touchdowns rank eighth in NFL history.

Anderson (Vigor High School in Prichard, Auburn) became a fixture at right offensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals after joining the team as the 10th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft. Anderson started every Cincinnati game except for two from 1997 through 2006. From 2003 through 2006, he was on the AFC Pro Bowl team and, in 2004, 2005 and 2006, he made first-team All-Pro. Anderson blocked in two record-setting games for running back Corey Dillon — an NFL rookie record 246 rushing yards against the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 and an NFL record 278 rushing yards versus the Denver Broncos in 2000.

Bennett (Ensley High School in Birmingham, Alabama) was the second player picked in the 1996 NFL Draft. He played in four straight Super Bowls with the Buffalo Bills and was a Pro Bowl selection in each of those seasons – 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993. He also was an All-Pro in 1988, played in 206 regular-season games and appeared in another Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons.

Mathis (Alabama A&M) played in 13 NFL seasons for the Indianapolis Colts and is the NFL’s career leader for forced fumbles with 54. Mathis recorded 123 sacks, which ranks 19th in NFL history, and led the league in that stat with 19.5 in 2013, when he was a first-team All-Pro selection. A five-time Pro Bowler, Mathis played in two Super Bowls, including the Colts’ 29-17 victory over the Chicago Bears in the 2006 NFL championship game, and Indianapolis won 68 percent of the 192 regular-season games in which he played.

Spikes (Auburn) went to the Bengals with the 13th selection in the 1998 NFL Draft and played for five teams during a 15-year, 219-game career. Spikes’ top seasons came in 2003 and 2004 with the Bills, when he earned Pro Bowl invitations. He also made first-team All-Pro in 2004. His 1,425 tackles are the most for an Auburn alumnus in the NFL.

Tuck (Central High School in Rockford) helped the New York Giants win two Super Bowl championships after joining the team as a third-round selection in the 2005 NFL Draft. Tuck made first-team All-Pro in 2008 and earned another Pro Bowl invitation in 2010. Tuck recorded 66.5 sacks and forced 20 fumbles during his 11-year career.

Ware (Auburn High School, Troy) ranks ninth on the NFL’s career sacks list with 138.5 during his 12 seasons, and he led the league in sacks in 2008 with 20 and 2010 with 15.5 In nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Ware earned first-team All-Pro recognition four times and was picked for the Pro Bowl seven times. Ware spent his final three seasons with the Denver Broncos, earning two more Pro Bowl invitations and helping the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 to cap the 2015 season.

White (UAB) joined the Atlanta Falcons as the 27th pick of the 2005 NFL Draft, and he went on to set franchise records for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. Along the way, White earned Pro Bowl recognition annually from 2008 through 2011 and was a first-team All-Pro in 2010, when he led the NFL with 115 receptions and recorded the fourth of his six straight seasons with 1,000 receiving yards.

Fifteen men who played at Alabama high schools and colleges are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The state’s Hall of Famers are Robert Brazile (Vigor), Buck Buchanan (Parker High School in Birmingham), Frank Gatski (Auburn), Kevin Greene (Auburn), John Hannah (Albertville High School, Alabama), Don Hutson (Alabama), Walter Jones (Aliceville High School), Joe Namath (Alabama), Ozzie Newsome (Colbert County High School, Alabama), Terrell Owens (Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City), Ken Stabler (Foley High School, Alabama), John Stallworth (Tuscaloosa, Alabama A&M), Bart Starr (Sidney Lanier High School in Montgomery, Alabama), Dwight Stephenson (Alabama) and Derrick Thomas (Alabama).

The modern-era nominees will be narrowed to 25 semifinalists in November. The semifinalists will provide the 15 finalists for consideration on Feb. 12, 2022, in Los Angeles by the 49-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Also under consideration at that time will be senior nominees Joe Klecko, Chuck Howley and Ken Riley (predating the 25-year window for modern-era nominees) and coach/contributor finalist Don Coryell.

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The modern-era nominees include:

Quarterbacks: Randall Cunningham, Jake Delhomme, Jeff Garcia, Dave Krieg, Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair

Running backs: Shaun Alexander, Mike Alstott, Tiki Barber, Larry Centers, Corey Dillon, Warrick Dunn, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, Steven Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jamal Lewis, Eric Metcalf, Lorenzo Neal, Fred Taylor, Ricky Watters, Brian Westbrook

Wide receivers: Anquan Boldin, Troy Brown, Donald Driver, Henry Ellard, Irving Fryar, Devin Hester, Torry Holt, Joe Horn, Andre Johnson, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason, Muhsin Muhammad, Andre Rison, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Steve Smith, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker, Roddy White

Tight end: Dallas Clark, Ben Coates, Wesley Walls

Offensive linemen: Willie Anderson (T), Matt Birk (C), Lomas Brown (T), Ruben Brown (G), Jahri Evans (G), D’Brickshaw Ferguson (T), Kevin Glover (C/G), Jordan Gross (T), Olin Kreutz (C), Nick Mangold (C), Logan Makins (G), Tom Nalen (C), Nate Newton (G/T), Jeff Saturday (C), Mark Schlereth (G/C), Chris Snee (G), Joe Thomas (T), Brian Waters (G), Richmond Webb (T), Erik Williams (T), Steve Wisniewski (G)

Defensive linemen: John Abraham, Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, La’Roi Glover, Casey Hampton, Robert Mathis, Leslie O’Neal, Simeon Rice, Clyde Simmons, Justin Smith, Neil Smith, Justin Tuck, Vince Wilfork, Kevin Williams

Linebackers: Jessie Armstead, Cornelius Bennett, NaVorro Bowman, Lance Briggs, Chad Browns, Tedy Bruschi, London Fletcher, James Harrison, Seth Joyner, Willie McGinest, Takeo Spikes, Pat Swilling, Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Al Wilson

Defensive backs: Eric Allen, Ronde Barber, Dre Bly, Kam Chancellor, Nick Collins, Antonio Cromartie, Merton Hanks, Rodney Harrison, Albert Lewis, Terry McDaniel, Tim McDonald, Darrelle Revis, Allen Rossum, Asanta Samuel, Bob Sanders, Charles Tillman, Troy Vincent, Adrian Wilson, Darren Woodson

Kickers/punters: Gary Anderson (K), Jason Elam (K), Jeff Feagles (P), Jason Hanson (K), John Kasay (K), Sean Landeta (P), Shane Lechler (P), Ryan Longwell (K), Pat McAfee (P), Matt Turk (P)

Special teams: Josh Cribbs, Brian Mitchell

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1 .

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