Johnny Sample leads group of new deserving Hall candidates
This is a big weekend for the NFL with the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony taking place in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday at 7 p.m. (NFL Network and ESPN). The 2016 class includes some great people like Tony Dungy, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Ken Stabler, Kevin Greene, Bret Favre, Dick Stanfel and Edward DeBartolo Jr.
As good as this group is, there are a number of outstanding people who have not made it to Canton yet. And they should be in the Hall of Fame. Each one of these players have made a huge impact on the game. Not all of them have won championships, but their overall talents and accomplishments have made them hall of fame worthy.
Sample is the only professional football player to have won all three: an NFL, AFL and Super Bowl championship. He played 11 professional football seasons with 41 interceptions, which he returned for 460 yards and four touchdowns. He recovered 13 fumbles, returning them for 61 yards. On special teams, he returned 68 punts for 559 yards and a touchdown, along with 60 kickoffs for 1,560 yards and a touchdown. In 1961, he led the NFL in punt return yards.
Sample played a huge role in the New York Jets’ 16-7 victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III in 1969. He also had a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown to lead the Baltimore Colts to a 31-16 win over the New York Giants in the 1959 NFL Championship game.
Brazile was one of the best playmaking linebackers to ever play the game. He played 10 seasons for the Houston Oilers (1975-1984). Brazile could play the run, rush the passer and drop back into pass coverage. He was the sixth player taken in the first round overall coming out of Jackson State in the 1975 NFL Draft. In 1975, he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He was selected to seven Pro Bowls and named All-Pro six times. Brazile was chosen to the 1970s NFL All-Decade team. He finished his playing career with 1,281 tackles, which ranks second all-time in the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans history books.
Shell signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina State. He played strong safety for the Steelers from 1974-1987. He was named to five Pro Bowls and selected All-Pro five times. He played on the Steelers four Super Bowl championship teams (IX, X, XII, XIV). He retired with the most interceptions by a strong safety with 51. Donnie Shell will be Tony Dungy’s presenter at the Hall of Fame on
Riley played his college football at Florida A&M. He was a sixth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1969. He played defensive back for the Bengals. He was named All-Pro four times. He retired with the fourth-most career interceptions with 65. His 65 interceptions and five touchdown returns are team records in the Bengals’ organization.
Cunningham was one of the most exciting quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL. He was a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1985 out of the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV). Sports Illustrated tagged Cunningham, the “Ultimate Weapon.”
He played 10 years for the Eagles (1985-1995). Cunningham passed for 22,877 yards while throwing for 150 touchdowns. He was a tremendous scrambler and runner. He gained 4,482 yards and scored 22 TDs with Philadelphia. He finished his career with 4,928 rushing yards.
After announcing his retirement following his last season with the Eagles, he made a terrific come back with the Minnesota Vikings (1997-1999). In 1998, he led the Vikings to a 15-1 record. He threw for 3,704 yards with 34 TDs that season.
Cunningham was a four-time Pro Bowler, two-time NFL Most Valuable Player and a three-time Bert Bell Award winner. He completed his playing days with 29,979 passing yards and 207 touchdowns. In addition to the Eagles and Vikings, he played for the Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens.