The Class Of 18

1. Randy Moss– He’s the sixth wide receiver ever to be voted in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer with Jerry Rice, of course, being the first. He truly opened the doors and paved the way for the receivers after him. Nate Burleson said it best: Randy Moss is the Allen Iverson of wide receivers. It’s only fitting to compare him to another legend. When your last name is a verb in typical football conversation when discussing receivers, your impact on the game is pretty big. He was a special football player that really made defenses put added emphasis on him. I’ll always remember his rookie season when he put his name on the map and became a superstar. Every single week, he wowed us with his catches and the ability to basically make a cornerback look foolish. At 6’4, his length was impossible to defend. The best I ever saw him look was in 2007 when he joined the New England Patriots and made history becoming the first wide receiver to record 23 touchdowns in a single season. Seeing him that year made me ask myself, what would’ve happened if he had a quarterback like Brady throughout his career? This is a guy that Dennis Green took a chance on with the 21st pick in 1998 and I think that all worked out. What a career he had and now, his name will be mentioned in Canton with all of the greats.

2. Ray Lewis– He’s the greatest middle linebacker EVER and there isn’t a doubt in my mind about it. Anytime you watched those Ravens’ defenses, there were many different players to leave and some to come in and play, but number 52 in the middle was a consistent force. He left it all on the field and was the definition of a leader and not only was he the heart and soul of the Baltimore Ravens, he was also the heartbeat of the city of Baltimore. This team went as far as he took them. I’ll always remember him being the anchor of the 2000 Ravens defense, one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. The team set a 16-game single-season record for fewest points allowed (165) and fewest rushing yards allowed (970). We may never see anything like that ever again. His career speaks for itself. He was a 13-time pro bowler, a two-time defensive MVP and he won two Super Bowls in his legendary career. He went from the U, to Baltimore and now, Canton, Ohio.

3. Brian Urlacher– I remember when he first came into the league back in 2000. Living in Chicago, you always saw people wearing a number 54 jersey. When I think of the Chicago Bears, I immediately think of defense and all the legendary names that have played for this iconic organization. Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and now, Brain will get to join those names in Canton. He’s one of the smartest defensive players I’ve come to watch and he was so knowledgeable of everything going on around him that he would know what play was being run before the ball was snapped. When I think of a blue-collar guy that played the game hard and left everything on the field along with giving 110 percent on every play, that’s Brian Urlacher to the T. Chicago is a city with many blue-collar people and he fit in perfectly and the city of Chicago loved him back. He finished his career with 1,353 tackles and 41.5 sacks.

4. Brian Dawkins– When I think of passionate football players, two guys immediately come to mind. That’s Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins and ironically, they’ll both be going into the hall together. Not only was he the heart and soul of the Eagles defense when he played in Philadelphia, he was the blood flow of that entire team. Every football team has that one player that can spark things up for everybody and that was number 20. Before games even started, I thought he was about to pop a blood vessel and if you haven’t seen it, go look at his pre-game routine on YouTube. He played the safety position as if he were a linebacker. He was able to cover ground and no matter who caught the football, he always greeted them with a tackle. He was an underappreciated safety and played during a time when Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu (both will be in Canton soon). I loved the energy and passion he displayed every single game.

5. Jerry Kramer– To some, he should’ve been in years ago and he was even named the top player not to be inducted into Canton. Well now, the wait is over and after 11 years, he’s finally in. He was an integral part of the famous “Packer Sweep”, a signature play in which both guards rapidly pull out from their normal positions and lead block for the running back going around the end. Kramer was an All-Pro five times, and a member of the NFL’s 50th-anniversary team in 1969.

6. Robert Brazile– He was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1975 with the sixth overall pick in the first round. When Bum Phillips took over the defense, he switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and this proved to be a perfect fit for Brazile (6’4, 230 pounds) with his combination of size and speed. He found immediate success with the Oilers winning the 1975 defensive rookie of the year and he was named a pro bowler in seven straight seasons. While most cite Lawrence Taylor as the prototype of the pass-rushing outside linebacker in the NFL, there are some, including Phillips, who says Brazile was the one who first made the 3-4 popular for sending an outside linebacker to rush the quarterback.

7. Bobby Bethard– He’s a former general manager and over the 38 years he spent in the NFL, the teams he was running made the Super Bowl a total of seven times and won four of them. The Chiefs were the first in 1966, followed by the Miami Dolphins in 1972 (best team in NFL history) and 73, the Washington Redskins in 1982, 1983 and 1987 and the San Diego Chargers in 1994. The guy knew a thing about winning and his teams did it consistently.