For a sixth straight year, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward has made the cut as a semifinalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ward is one of 26 modern-era players who made the cut for possible induction into the Hall of Fame in 2022.
The 26 players were selected from a group of 123 nominees that were announced in September. The list will be whittled down to 15 finalists before the selection committee votes on next year's induction class the week of Super Bowl LVI. The 2022 Hall of Fame induction class will be announced Feb. 10 at 9 p.m. ET. Along with the modern-era finalists, the selection committee will vote on the careers of senior nominee Cliff Branch, coach Dick Vermeil and contributor Art McNally. The Hall of Fame's 2022 enshrinement week will take place from Aug. 4-8 in Canton, Ohio.
Devin Hester, the Chicago Bears' prolific punt and kickoff returner who is responsible for the fastest scored touchdown in Super Bowl history, is one of seven nominees who are eligible for induction for the first time. Players must be retired for at least five years before they are eligible to receive consideration for induction into the Hall of Fame.
Here is a look at each of the 26 modern-era finalists:
- CB Eric Allen (Eagles, Saints, Raiders): 1998-01 -- Allen led the NFL in pick-sixes on multiple occasions. He finished his career with 54 interceptions.
- DE Jared Allen (Chiefs, Vikings, Bears, Panthers): 2004-15 -- A two-time sack champion, Allen tallied 136 sacks during his career.
- OT Willie Anderson (Bengals, Ravens): 1996-08 -- An All-Pro three straight years from 2004-06, the durable offensive lineman started in each of Cincinnati's 16 games eight different seasons.
- DB Ronde Barber (Buccaneers): 1997-12 -- Barber, a member of the NFL's All-2000s Team, will also be remembered in Tampa Bay for his game-clinching pick-six in the 2002 NFC Championship game.
- WR Anquan Boldin* (Cardinals, Ravens, 49ers, Lions): 2003-16 -- The 2003 Offensive Rookie of the Year, Boldin earned three Pro Bowl honors during his career. He played a key role on two Super Bowl teams that included Baltimore's 2002 championship team.
- OT Tony Boselli (Jaguars): 1995-01 -- Considered the best left tackle of his era, Boselli earned five straight Pro Bowl nods from 1996-00. HIs play helped the Jaguars reach two AFC Championship Games.
- S LeRoy Butler (Packers): 1990-01 -- A versatile safety, Butler's physicality helped the Packers force several turnovers of Drew Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI. Butler was named an All-Pro each year from 1996-98.
- RB Eddie George (Oilers/Titans, Cowboys): 1996-04 -- A throwback, physical runner, George was a Pro Bowler each season from 1997-00. George led the Titans' run to Super Bowl XXXIV.
- WR/PR/KR Devin Hester* (Bears, Falcons, Ravens): 2006-16 -- The best returner of his era, Hester was a number of both the 2000 and 2010s NFL All-Decade teams. He led the NFL in punt returns for scores three times and kickoff returns for scores twice.
- WR Torry Holt (Rams, Jaguars): 1998-09 -- A valuable member of the "Greatest Show on Turf," Holt led the NFL in receiving twice. He was a Pro Bowler seven times over an eight-year span.
- WR Andre Johnson* (Texans, Colts, Titans): 2003-16 -- The best offensive player in Texans history, Johnson led the NFL in receiving twice and in catches twice. Johnson earned five Pro Bowls over a six-year span and seven overall.
- DE/LB Robert Mathis* (Colts): 2003-16 -- A key member of the Colts' 2006 championship team, Mathis led the NFL in sacks in 2013. He also led the NFL in forced fumbles three times and fumble returns for touchdowns twice. Mathis retired with 123 career sacks.
- LB Sam Mills (Saints, Panthers): 1986-97 -- A five-time Pro Bowler, Mills racked up nearly 1,300 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 22 forced fumbles and 23 fumble recoveries. At age 37, he received his first All-Pro nod while helping lead the Panthers' run to an NFC Championship Game appearance.
- DE/DT Richard Seymour (Patriots, Raiders): 2001-12 -- One of the best players on New England's early 2000s dynasty. Seymour earned five Pro Bowl and three All-Pro nods from 2002-06.
- WR Steve Smith* (Panthers, Ravens): 2001-16 -- The eighth-leading receiver in NFL history, Smith won Comeback Player of the Year after leading the NFL in receiving a year after breaking his leg. He had 335 receiving yards and four total touchdowns during the 2005 playoffs.
- ST/WR Steve Tasker (Oilers, Bills): 1985-97 -- One of the best special teams players in NFL history. Tasker's contributions on special teams helped Buffalo win four consecutive AFC titles from 1990-93. His blocked punt set up Buffalo's first touchdown in Super Bowl XXVII.
- RB Fred Taylor (Jaguars, Patriots): 1998-10 -- The Jaguars' all-time leading rusher, Taylor ran for over 1,000 yards seven times during his career. He led the NFL with an average of nearly 108 rushing yards per game in 2000.
- LB Zach Thomas (Dolphins, Cowboys): 1996-08 -- A tackling machine, Thomas racked up 1,734 stops in 13 seasons. During a nine-year stretch, Thomas earned seven Pro Bowl selections and four All-Pro nods.
- WR Hines Ward (Steelers): 1998-11 -- The MVP of Super Bowl XL, Ward is regarded one of the best blocking receivers in NFL history. Ward is 27th all-time in receiving yards, 14th in receptions, and tied for 16th in touchdown catches. He caught 81 passes for 1,181 yards and 10 touchdowns in postseason play.
- LB/DE DeMarcus Ware* (Cowboys, Broncos): 2005-16 -- Ware did it all during his 12-year career. Ware led the NFL in sacks twice and finished his career with 138.5 sacks. He teamed with Von Miller to pose a formidable pass-rushing duo that helped Denver win Super Bowl 50.
- RB Ricky Watters (49ers, Eagles, Seahawks): 1992-01 -- The versatile Watters was a Pro Bowler during each of his first five seasons. He scored three touchdowns in the 49ers' win over the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. Watters tallied 10,643 rushing yards and 4,248 receiving yards while scoring 91 touchdowns during his 10-year career.
- WR Reggie Wayne (Colts): 2001-14 -- A Pro Bowler each season from 2006-10, Wayne led the NFL in receiving yards in 2007. Wayne is 10th in career receptions and receiving yards and is tied for 26th in career touchdown receptions. He helped the Colts win one Super Bowl and two AFC titles.
- DT Vince Wilfork* (Patriots, Texans): 2004-16 -- A staple of New England's defense for over a decade, Wilfork won Super Bowls during his first and last seasons with the Patriots. In between, he was named to five Pro Bowls while helping the Patriots win two additional AFC titles.
- LB Patrick Willis (49ers): 2007-14 -- Willis packed a lot into an eight-year career. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year after leading the NFL in tackles. Willis was named to seven Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro four straight seasons. He was the centerpiece of a defense that helped the 49ers win the 2012 NFC title while appearing in three consecutive NFC Championship Games.
- S Darren Woodson (Cowboys): 1992-03 -- A key member of the Cowboys' 1990s dynasty, Woodson garnered three All-Pro nods and five Pro Bowl selections from 1994-98. He is the Cowboys' all-time led with 827 solo tackles.
- DT Bryant Young (49ers): 1994-07 -- As a rookie, Young helped the 49ers win the franchise's fifth Super Bowl. A four-time Pro Bowler, Young won Comeback Player of the Year honors in 1999 after fracturing his leg the previous season. Young is second in 49ers franchise history with 89.5 sacks.
*Denotes first-year eligible players