The Hall of Fame class of 2012 has finally been named. In my opinion, the list of players is somewhat surprising. The class consists of Curtis Martin, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Willie Roaf, Dermontti Dawson, and senior selection Jack Butler. Amongst those semifinalists that didn’t make it, the most notable are Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter, and Bill Parcells. In my opinion, Bettis was completely snubbed. Martin and Bettis had fairly equal careers, so it seems odd to me that one would be picked and not the other. Personally, I would have taken both Bettis and Carter ahead of Dermontti Dawson and Cortez Kennedy.
Martin was very emotional in his acceptance speech, saying “When I get awarded something like the Hall of Fame, it’s almost foreign to me. This wasn’t something I planned on doing. Football is something I did so I didn’t end up jailed or dead. If you make up your mind to just do the right thing no matter what … and you stick to it, which I did, this is how things can turn around. I feel as if my life turned around from what it used to be, and I think anyone has a chance.” Martin, who grew up in a rough neighborhood in Pittsburgh, certainly proved it. Martin also mentioned Parcells in his speech, saying “I actually don’t think I’d play more than four or five years without Bill Parcells” Don’t be surprised if Parcells makes Martin’s formal induction speech in Canton on August 4th.
Martin primarily made the Hall for his consistency. He rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first ten seasons. Doleman was one of the premier pass rushers of his era, but it surprises me that he made it ahead of Kevin Greene; the two are very similar statistically. Kennedy was a dominant defensive tackle who recorded 58 sacks in his career, which is an astonishingly high number for a defensive tackle. Roaf was the dominant left tackle of his era, at a time when scouts were just beginning to value that position as the most important across the offensive line and one of the most important in football. Dawson came into the league in the late 80’s with the impossible task of replacing arguably the greatest center to ever play the game, Mike Webster. He managed to come as close to replacing Webster as anyone could expect, and was a great blocker pulling out in space. He possessed rare athleticism for a center. The other Steelers to make the list, Jack Butler, picked off 52 passes in his career and had a reputation as an extremely good tackler. The nominees this year were a very strong group, and I expected that a few of the players that I originally predicted to make it would be snubbed. In my eyes, however, Bettis really did deserve to be voted in this year. Regardless of my subjective opinions, congratulations to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012.