A Look at the NFL's 2011 Hall of Fame Class

Yesterday, I posted a small story about Hall of Fame inductee Marshall Faulk, including his career statistics.  Today, as the 2011 Class is inducted into the Hall, is a great chance to look at the remaining members of the group.  Each member will be listed below, along with their official Hall of Fame Bio, as taken from profootballhof.com:

Richard Dent, Defensive End, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles

An eighth-round draft pick out of Tennessee State, rookie defensive end Richard Dent immediately exceeded the Chicago Bears' expectations. Dent played in every game as a rookie in 1983 and even started in three. The following year, he became a permanent starter at right end. That year he recorded a team record 17.5 sacks which was also the most of any defender in the NFC. Making his accomplishment even more significant is the fact that he was a starter in only the final 10 games of the season. Appropriately, he was named to the first of his four Pro Bowls and earned All-Pro and All-NFC honors as well.

For Dent, the 1984 season was the beginning of a remarkable 10-year period during which he recorded 10 or more sacks in eight of the next ten seasons including five consecutive (1984-88). His only double digit misses during that period came in 1989 when he logged 9 sacks, and in 1992 when he added 8.5 more.

Dent’s NFC leading 17.5 sacks in 1984 was immediately followed up with an NFL best 17 sacks in 1985. That year the Bears trounced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Dent’s Super Bowl performance – three tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles – earned him Most Valuable Player honors. In the two playoff games against the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, building up to the Super Bowl, he was credited with a combined total of nine tackles and 4.5 sacks. In the 1986 season, Dent registered 11.5 sacks, 7.5 of which came during the final seven games.

Twice – once in 1984 and then again in 1987 – the Bears’ pass rushing specialist, dropped Los Angeles Raiders quarterbacks for a career high 4.5 sacks in a single game. 


Chicago’s defenses of the mid-to-late 1980s ranks as one of the best of all time. Dent, a pass-rushing force, was a dominant player on a dominant defense. "He’ll make the guy in front of him know he’s in for a day’s work," former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes said of Dent when he signed him late in his career.

At the time of his retirement, Dent’s 137.5 career sack total was third behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith. Additional career statistics – including seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (1994), Indianapolis Colts (1996), and Eagles (1997) – include 8 interceptions, a safety, and fumble recovery for a touchdown. Four times he was named first- or second-team All-Pro, five times All-NFC, and selected to play in four Pro Bowls (1985, 1986, 1991, and 1994).

 

Chris Hanburger, Linebacker, Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins picked North Carolina linebacker Chris Hanburger in the 18th round of the 1965 NFL Draft. The All-American started to make his mark late in his rookie season as he began to form a reputation as a player who made big plays. Soon thereafter he assumed the role as the "quarterback" of the Redskins defense while becoming one of the most dependable and steady linebackers of his era.

He was an integral part of the dominant Redskins teams of the 1970s. At the same time that Washington was rising to the top of the NFL, Hanburger began earning national acclaim. He was selected first-team All-Pro four times in a five-season span from 1972 to 1976 and named All-Eastern Conference in 1968 and 1969 and All-NFC six times in seven seasons from 1970 to 1976. Hanburger was also voted to nine Pro Bowls in his 14-season career.

His performance in the 1972 season gained him perhaps his greatest notoriety as he helped lead the Redskins to its first ever Super Bowl berth. He recorded numerous game-changing plays throughout the season as Washington won the NFC East with an 11-3 mark. He shared the team lead with a career-high four interceptions which he returned for 98 yards. That total included an interception of a Joe Namath pass which he returned 41 yards for a touchdown in Washington’s 35-17 win over the New York Jets on Nov. 5.

His strong play continued into that year’s postseason as the Redskins downed the Green Bay Packers 16-3 in the divisional playoff before facing the division rival Dallas Cowboys in the 1972 NFC Championship Game. Hanburger pitched in with two tackles and six assists as the Redskins routed the Cowboys 26-3. He added another strong game in his only Super Bowl appearance when he recorded four solo tackles and assisted on two others in a 14-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII.

In all, Hanburger recovered three fumbles for touchdowns which stood as an NFL record at the time of his retirement following the 1978 season. He also had 19 career interceptions for 347 yards and 2 TDs.

 

Les Richter, Linebacker, Los Angeles Rams

Linebacker Les Richter was the second player selected overall in the 1952 NFL Draft by the New York Yanks. Two days later, the franchise folded and was sold back to the NFL. Shortly thereafter the assets of the club, including the signing rights to Richter, were granted to the expansion Dallas Texans. The Los Angeles Rams dealt 11 players to the Texans to obtain the All-American from California.

Los Angeles had to wait two years while Richter served in the military. When he returned he signed with the Rams and embarked on a nine-season career that earned him the reputation as one of the best linebackers of his era. He was especially known for his rugged and punishing style of play.

Richter was selected to eight straight Pro Bowls. The only time he did not receive the honor was in his final season in 1962. He was also named a first- or second-team All-NFL each season during a six-year span from 1955 to 1960. Aside from his play at linebacker, Richter also saw some time at center and handled the Rams placekicking duties early in his career. He received much attention in 1955 for his play on defense as well as clutch placekicking that helped the Rams to an 8-3-1 record to win the NFL Western Division crown and a berth in the championship game.

He led the Rams in scoring in 1955 and 1956. In all, he totaled 193 points off of 29 field goals and 106 extra points during his career.

Richter recorded 16 career interceptions which he returned for 206 yards. Twice he had four picks in a season (1957 and 1961) and was the Rams leading interceptor in 1957. Richter battled through various injuries but never missed a game during his 112-game NFL career. In fact, early in the 1961 season he suffered a broken cheekbone during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played through the injury not initially knowing it was broken. He had a protective guard added to his helmet and completed the season even though he broke his cheekbone again five weeks later.

Richter passed away on June 12, 2010 at the age of 79.

 

Deion Sanders, Cornerback/Kick Returner/Punt Returner, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens

The Atlanta Falcons drafted Deion Sanders in the first round, fifth player overall, out of Florida State in the 1989 NFL Draft. His stardom in the NFL was apparent from his very first game when he returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown in his NFL debut.

More of that spectacular play continued throughout his 14-season, 188-game career. Sanders who spent time with five different NFL teams scored a total of six touchdowns on punt returns, three TDs on kickoff returns, and returned nine interceptions for scores. The multi-faceted athlete also returned one fumble for TD and had 60 receptions for 784 yards and 3 TDs during his career with the Falcons (1989-1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995-99), Washington Redskins (2000) and Baltimore Ravens (2004-05). In all, he recorded 53 career interceptions including five with the Ravens when he returned to the field after a three-year retirement.

A member of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s as both a cornerback and a punt returner, Sanders led the NFL in punt returns in 1998 with a 15.6 average. He also led the NFC in kickoffs in 1992 and interceptions in 1991 and 1993.

Despite his electrifying talents as a return man, Sanders was more widely regarded as a "shutdown corner" during his career. He was named first-team All-Pro nine times at cornerback in addition to receiving All-NFL acclaim by some media outlets as a kick returner in 1992 and as a punt returner in 1998. He was also elected to eight Pro Bowls during his career.

Sanders retired second all-time in interception return yardage (1,331) and tied for second for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a career (9) and a season (3). His career-high 303 yards gained on interception returns with the 49ers in 1994 was third best ever in the NFL at the time of his retirement. He also returned three picks for touchdowns (74, 93, 90 yards) that season to become the first player ever to have two 90-yard interception returns for touchdowns in the same season. He was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year.

Sanders won two Super Bowls during his career. He started at right cornerback for the 49ers in their 49-26 victory over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX and at left cornerback in the Cowboys 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XXX.

 

Shannon Sharpe, Tight End, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens

The Denver Broncos selected Shannon Sharpe out of Savannah State in the seventh round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He retired 14 seasons later as the all-time leader in catches, yards and touchdowns by a tight end.

His breakout year came during his third season when he led the Broncos in receiving with 53 catches for 640 yards to earn his first of eight Pro Bowl nods. Other than an injury-shortened 1999 campaign, Sharpe never caught less than 60 passes in a season for the remainder of his career.

In 1993, he was named first-team All-Pro for the first of four times after catching 81 passes for 995 yards and scoring 9 touchdowns. He followed that performance with a career-high 87 receptions in 1994.

Sharpe left the Broncos in 2000 and signed with the Baltimore Ravens as an unrestricted free agent. It was while with Baltimore in 2001 that Sharpe surpassed Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome to become the NFL’s record holder for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end. After two seasons with the Ravens he returned to Denver and played two final years with the Broncos. He became the career leader in touchdowns by a tight end in his final season. All three career marks have since been surpassed. Sharpe’s final career numbers read 815 receptions for 10,060 yards and 62 TDs. Ten times he had 60 or more catches including three 80-catch seasons. Sharpe eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark three times and twice had 10 TDs in a season.

He played in 204 regular season games and started in four AFC championship games. He was the starting tight end in Denver’s back-to-back Super Bowl titles (XXXII and XXXIII) and the Ravens’ Super Bowl XXXV victory.

Sharpe’s 96-yard touchdown reception in the 2000 AFC Championship Game came on a short pass from Trent Dilfer on third-and-18. The tight end streaked up the middle untouched for the game’s first and only touchdown which proved to be all that the Ravens needed to secure its first AFC championship and Super Bowl berth. The play remains the longest TD catch in NFL playoff history.

Sharpe led the Broncos in receiving six times and the Ravens once. He was named first-team All-Pro and All-AFC in 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998 and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.

 

Ed Sabol, Contributor, Creator of NFL Films

The creation of NFL Films in the early 1960s no doubt played a significant role in the growth in popularity of the National Football League. The man behind the idea of NFL Films was Ed Sabol.

Sabol, an aspiring filmmaker, was selling overcoats for his father-in-law in Philadelphia when at age 45 he hatched the idea of forming Blair Productions, a film company he named after his daughter. In 1962 Sabol contacted National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle with an offer to double the $1,500 bid for the rights to film the 1962 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers. Rozelle accepted and Sabol's film company was off and rolling.

From the very start, Sabol incorporated a unique creative angle inspired by his background in the drama society at Ohio State and a brief stint on Broadway. Rather than use a single camera located high in the stadium that day, Sabol added a sideline camera to catch the intensity of the players. Blair Productions continued to shoot NFL action for the next two years before Sabol convinced NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and the 14 team owners that they needed their own motion picture company. With that, NFL Films was born. Sabol served as the President of NFL Films until 1985 when he turned over the role to his son Steve. The senior Sabol continued to serve as the Chairman of NFL Films through his retirement in 1995.

During his tenure, NFL Films won 52 Emmy Awards.

With Ed Sabol's vision, NFL Films has revolutionized the manner in which sports are presented on camera. Many firsts in film were introduced under his leadership ranging from the first use of a microphone on coaches, referees and players; use of a reverse-angle replay; adding popular music to footage; and the ever popular bloopers videos.

NFL Films has continually adapted to new technology while maintaining its dramatic storytelling technique. The company began producing weekly NFL highlight shows in the late 1960s, introduced the first sports home video in 1980, and today remains at the forefront of the film industry. In 2002, the company moved into a 200,000-square-football facility that includes productions studios and massive film library.

Ed Sabol's innovations have clearly changed the way that fans watch football.

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