Five more NFL legends will enter the hallowed Halls in Canton tonight, the NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2012. The class is led by former Patriots and Jets running back Curtis Martin and includes a slew of defensive stars who tried to stop him.
Curtis Martin – RB/New England Patriots, New York Jets (1995-2007)
Martin finished his career fourth on the All-Time rushing list with over 14,000 yards carried over his 10 year career. Martin was a third round pick in the 1995 draft and played in New England until the 1998 season when he jetted over to New York to play for former coach Bill Parcells. With the Jets, Martin missed just one game in his first seven seasons and helped lead New York to the playoffs. He narrowly missed becoming the first NFL rusher to post 11 straight 1,000 yard seasons when he was placed on IR during the 2005 season. But Martin still made history in his later years, winning the Rushing Title at the age of 31. He’s a member of the New York Jets Ring of Honor and has, among numerous other accolades to his credit, a Rookie of the Year award, 5 Pro Bowls and 5 All-Pro appearances.
Career Highlight: Rushed for 196 yards Week 1 against the Bengals in 2004. Martin would go on to rush over 110 yards 8 more times that year including a 154 yard outing the final week of the season.
Cortez Kennedy – NT/Seattle Seahawks (1990-2000)
Once the third overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft, Cotez Kennedy spent all of his 10 years in the NFL with the same team: the Seattle Seahawks. Although he was only featured on national television four times during his career, Kennedy put together one of the more memorable careers for a nose tackle — especially considering he dominated the quarterback, something a player of his position rarely does. Kennedy was named the 1992 Defensive Player of the Year, finishing the season with 14 sacks, which was as many sacks as his team did losses. He averaged 4.5 sacks per season for the rest of his career, posting a third and final non-consecutive season of 6.5 sacks in 1999 — a year before his retirement. He was named to the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor in 2007 after recording 58 sacks and 668 tackles during his career and was voted by Sports Illustrated as the best player in sports history to ever wear the number 96.
Career Highlight: Recorded 14 sacks during the 1992 season, getting thee of those sacks in Week 3 against the New England Patriots. He would go on to have two more multi-sack games that year.
Chris Doleman – RE/Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers (1985-1999)
He began his NFL career playing outside linebacker but Minnesota Viking legend Chris Doleman made his name flying off the defensive end. In 1989 Doleman made the switch of a career when he moved to defensive end in the Vikings 4-3 defense and went on to record 21 sacks that year. Doleman’s sack total would be a Viking single season record that stood until Jared Allen recorded 22 sacks in 2011 and his career total is still good for the fourth All-Time. He is a three time All-Pro selection and was named to eight Pro Bowls in his 14 year career. Not only was he named one of the 50 greatest Vikings and inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor, but he’s also a member of the illustrious 100 Sack Club.
Career Highlight: Doleman recorded 10-plus sacks in eight of his 14 seasons in the NFL. His 1989 season saw him record 7 multi-sack games including a week 10 game against the Bengals which saw him get 4 sacks. His 21 sacks came in just 11 games in 1989.
Wilie Roaf – OT/New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs (1993-2005)
Offensive Tackles get absolutely no love for the type of hard work they have to put into their NFL careers and Willie Roaf embodied that better than anyone. During his 12 years as a tackle, Roaf protected his quarterback in 189 games and was named to the All-Decade 1990′s team as a lineman. Roaf quietly earned a plethora of accolades over the years including being named to two decade teams (He was named to the All-Decade 2000′s team as well), 9 All-Pro teams, 8 All-Conference teams and 11 Pro Bowls. Roaf’s accolades don’t even begin to speak to the kind of force he was on the offensive line and the number of steaks quarterbacks had to buy him, probably still, for his years of protection.
Career Highlight: Roaf was named to a Pro Bowl team in all but one season of his NFL career.
Dermontti Dawson – C/Pittsburgh Steelers (1988-2000)
Dawson was another example of a guy not a lot of average fans have heard of but is still nonetheless one of the greatest to ever play the game. Dawson spent the entirety of his 12 year career with the Steelers after they drafted him 44th overall in 1988. He went to start in 181 games for Pittsburgh and was a driving force behind some of Jerome Bettis’ best years. He is a 7-time Pro Bowler and a 6-time All-Pro selection. He is joined by fellow Class member Willie Roaf as members of the All-Decade 1990′s team to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Career Highlight: Dawson played in 184 games for the Steelers in his career.
Jack Butler – CB/Pittsburgh Steelers (1951-1959)
Butler boasts the title as one of the Steelers best cornerbacks and that’s saying a lot given the heritage of that team. But Butler was one of the first members of what became a legendary defense over the years and is the grandfather to Steel Curtain days. One of the most impressive things about Butler is not just what he accomplished but the amount of time it took him to accomplish them. He has 52 interceptions to his name and only went three seasons without intercepting more than five. Butler did all of this in just an eight year career. Had Butler not suffered a career ending leg injury in 1959, there is no telling how many more interceptions or Pro Bowl honors Butler would have gotten. As it stood at his career’s end, Butler had been to 4 Pro Bowls and has a three-time All-Pro.
Career Highlight: Butler intercepted 52 passes in his career but he had his best season in 1957 when he picked-off 10 passes in 12 games. He nearly tied that total in 1958 with 9 interceptions.