MINNEAPOLIS -- The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its annual class on Saturday night atand, to no one's surprise, former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis skated into Canton. Also unsurprising: Randy Moss joined him.
What was shocking was that Terrell Owens, previously snubbed by the voters, ended up making it into Canton on his third try.
Not making it this year? Offensive linemen. Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli were both denied gold jackets at the expense of some notable defensive players: Lewis, Brian Dawkins and Brian Urlacher joined the receiver duo as the modern entrants for the Hall.
Jerry Kramer, Robert Brazile and Bobby Beathard are also a part of the class.
Drafted with the 26th overall pick of the 1996 NFL Draft by the Ravens, Lewis and fellow Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden were the first new players acquired by the franchise after moving out of Cleveland and to a new home. They became the backbone of the Ravens, helping the team to win a Super Bowl in the 2000 season, when Lewis was named Super Bowl MVP.
Lewis would go on to play a remarkable 17 seasons at middle linebacker for a single franchise, making the Pro Bowl 13 times -- including a final time at the age of 36 -- and being named to the All-Pro team seven times in his career. Lewis produced 31 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles, 41.5 sacks and recorded more than 2,000 total tackles in his career. Lewis netted Defensive Player of the Year honors twice (2000, 2003) and would bookend his incredible run with the Ravens by helping them to win a Super Bowl in 2012, his final year in the NFL.
Lewis' career was not without controversy: in January of 2000, two of Lewis's friends were arrested and indicted on murder charges after two people were stabbed outside of a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. Lewis had murder charges dismissed and he pled guilty to obstruction of justice. He was also fined $250,000 by the NFL for his role in the incident.
Arguably the most talented wide receiver in NFL history, Moss has a fascinating career path. Drafted by the Vikings in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft, Moss fell to 21st overall because of character concerns (he left Florida State and finished college at Marshall). He exploded on the scene, leading the NFL in touchdowns as a rookie (17) while catching 69 passes for 1,313 yards.
Partnering with Cris Carter for several years, Moss would become the most lethal deep threat in the NFL; a highlight reel of his catches over 40 yards lasts more than nine minutes. But things weren't always smooth sailing for Moss: he drew criticism for his behavior on the field, including a fake mooning of Packers fans at Lambeau Field that brought out the classic "disgusting act" line from Joe Buck on the broadcast.
Moss was traded to the Oakland Raiders during the 2005 offseason and it looked like his career might be winding down. Moss topped 1,000 receiving yards his first year with the Silver and Black but clearly wasn't happy and later said he didn't care as much when he wasn't in a good mood. Moss would be traded to the Patriots before the 2007 season and he exploded in a historical season, catching 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an absurd 23 touchdowns.
Moss ranks fourth in receiving yards (15,292), 15th in receptions (982) and second in receiving touchdowns (156).
Finally! Owens, who is top 10 all time in receptions (1,078), receiving yards (15,934) and receiving touchdowns (153), was kept out of the Hall of Fame for his first two years of eligibility for reasons that go beyond the football field. It was almost explicitly as a result of Owens's behavior outside the lines. Owens was a notoriously huge pain in the rear as a teammate and for the media to cover. Let's be real here -- Owens really liked to hog the spotlight, and he was very good at drawing attention to himself, whether it be for crying about "my quarterback" (Tony Romo) or doing sit-ups in his driveway (with the Eagles). Owens almost always had ugly departures from whatever team he was playing for.
Having said that, he was an incredibly dominant force in the passing game. Owens was drafted in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft out of Chattanooga and spent the first eight seasons of his career in San Francisco. He had one 1,000-yard season in his first four years and then exploded in the fifth season of his career, catching 97 passes for 1,451 yards and 13 touchdown passes. He would lead the league in receiving scores the next two years (16 in 2001 and 13 in 2002) and be named to the All-Pro team four consecutive seasons.
At the age of 31, he joined the Eagles and helped Philadelphia make a run to the Super Bowl; Owens broke his leg late in the year but still came back and nearly dragged Philly to a title (spoiler: the Patriots would win). He only lasted one more year in Philly before spending three seasons with the Cowboys; Owens would score 38 touchdowns for the Cowboys in that stretch and average 1,196 receiving yards with Dallas. Owens would wrap up his career with a season in Buffalo and a season in Cincinnati.
A surprise selection for this class, it was largely believed Urlacher might have to wait at least one year to see Lewis get in before being selected for the Hall of Fame himself. However, Urlacher garnered the support needed to get a gold jacket on his first attempt.
Urlacher was drafted by the Bears with the ninth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft and spent his entire career in Chicago, playing 13 seasons for the Bears in mostly dominant fashion. He made Pro Bowls his first four seasons and finished with eight of them in his career, while also making the All-Pro team four different times. Urlacher was a prototypical middle linebacker for the Bears during a time when great defenses needed a backbone in the middle, and Urlacher was perfect for Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 defense in Chicago. He was a tackling machine, finishing his career with 1,315 tackles. He also added 41.5 sacks and a ridiculous 22 interceptions. Urlacher was the 2000 Defensive Rookie of the Year and the 2005 Defensive Player of the Year.
Another mainstay of a dominant late '90s defense, Dawkins was one of the hardest hitting safeties ever to grace an NFL field, a second-round pick who spent his career punishing receivers that tried to come over the middle of the field and catch the football. Dawkins finished his career -- 13 years with the Eagles and three years with the Broncos -- with 1,131 total tackles, 26 sacks and 37 interceptions. He also registered 120 passes defensed and 36 forced fumbles.
Dawkins was a perfect fit for Jim Johnson's aggressive, blitz-happy defense (although he was drafted before Andy Reid and Johnson got to Philly) and made his first Pro Bowl in 1999 following a coaching change with the Eagles. Dawkins would go on to make the Pro Bowl nine times and be named to the All-Pro team four different times.
Kramer hasthe Hall of Fame. He played 11 seasons with the Packers, winning five titles in Green Bay during his tenure. Kramer was eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 1973 and was a finalist a ridiculous 10 times. He was an All-Pro five times with Green Bay. Kramer was a two-time Super Bowl winner and a five-time NFL champion overall.
Brazile spent his entire 10-year career playing linebacker for the Oilers, earning a Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1975 after being the sixth-overall pick for Houston that year. Brazile was the last linebacker from the NFL's 1970s All-Decade team to make it in the Hall of Fame. He was named to seven Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro two different times in his career. He finished his career with 13 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.
Beathard earned his spot in the Hall of Fame via the contributor category after spending nearly four decades in the NFL, including 22 years as an NFL general manager. Beathard was the Redskins GM for 11 years, winning a pair of Super Bowls and making the playoffs five different times. He then spent 11 more years with the San Diego Chargers, making a single Super Bowl (1994) but failing to secure a title. Beathard was also a scout for the Chiefs and the Falcons and a personnel man for the Dolphins when they won a pair of Super Bowls, giving him four rings total in his career.