The Class Of 19

1. Tony Gonzalez– He paved the way for the tight ends that came after him. To this day, a few that play the game say they’ve studied him and added some things from his game to add to their game. He’s one of the three greatest tight ends I’ve seen play this game. As soon as he retired, I said to myself, get the yellow jacket and bust made for him because he will be first-ballot. Five years later, here we are getting ready to watch him get inducted into the hall. Each week, he was always so consistent. His quarterback knew when to get him the ball and he did the rest. He used his basketball background on the football field. At 6’5, he used his height, frame and caught the ball as if he were boxing out to get a rebound. Tony always knew how to operate in open space. This is a well-deserved honor for one of the all-time greats.

2. Ed Reed– I loved every second that I got to watch him play. Although Ray Lewis was the face and emotional leader of those Ravens defenses, I often considered Ed Reed to be the heart and soul of that entire team. Prior to playing the Ravens, you always had to circle and know exactly where number 20 was. He had a knack for ruining an offensive gameplan. He’s one of the three best safeties I’ve seen play. He did it all. He stopped the run, he dropped back in coverage, he could line up in the box, etc. However, he was at his best when he played “center field” and played deep in the backend and made the interception. When that ball hit his hand was when the magic started. He played as if he were an offensive player on the defensive side because he was always a threat to take it to the endzone for six points.

3. Champ Bailey– Before Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson, Stephon Gilmore and Darrelle Revis, there was Champ Bailey, another lockdown corner. Each week, he faced the opposition’s number one wide receiver and shut them down. He could also stick and cover tight ends which is a tough task because of the mismatch problems they create. Champ wasn’t a corner that could only cover. He could also tackle and didn’t mind getting his jersey dirty. Champ was a player who always wanted to make a play upon the football and he always seemed to get that interception with his great closing speed, or he made that one tackle in the open field where he forces a fumble. I remember his 2006 season. Champ went the entire year without allowing a single touchdown. Three years later, he did the same in 2009. As he got older, he got smarter which allowed him to play at a high level even at an advanced age.

4. Ty Law– The first Patriot from the dynasty to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Ty was a fan favorite for years during his time with the Patriots. He’s one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history. He was the one corner that could play in the slot to defend those quicker receivers and play outside on the perimeter. He always was a player with a tremendous nose for the football. He was the face of those Patriots defenses under Bill Parcells in the 90s. When Belichick took over in the 2000’s, he became that savvy veteran. He was apart of three Super Bowl winning teams (01, 03 and 04) and a key piece of those defense. Ty finished his career with 53 career interceptions.

5. Kevin Mawae– A center on the offensive line is the leader of the other four guys around him. That’s exactly what Kevin was. When he was drafted in 1994 by the Seattle Seahawks, he was penciled in as the starting right guard. His dominance kept him in the line up for the rest of that season. At the start of the 1996 season, he moved to center and stayed there for the rest of his career. He had his best years with the New York Jets. He opened lanes for Curtis Martin who put together two great rushing seasons for the green and white. He finished his career with the Tennessee Titans then called it a career after the 2009 season.

6. Pat Bowlen– This one is for Pat! I’m so happy that this man will be receiving the recognition and honor he rightfully deserves. If I had to make a Mount Rushmore of owners in our game, he’d be up there for me. Mr. Bowlen purchased the Denver Broncos in 1984 and the team had one of the highest winning percentages in the league. Under the Bowlen ownership, the Broncos won the AFC a total of seven times and three Super Bowls with the most recent being in 2015-16 when they defeated the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. On June 13th, 2019, Mr. Bowlen passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. My thoughts are with the Bowlen family.

7. Gil Brandt– Scouting teams and players wouldn’t be where it is today if it hadn’t been for Mr. Gil Brandt. He was hired on by the Los Angeles Rams in 1955 as a part-time scout. In 1958, he was hired on a full-time basis by the San Francisco 49ers as a scout. In 1960, he was hired on by the Dallas Cowboys to be their chief talent scout. When Tex Schramm took over in running the Cowboys, Mr. Brandt was one of the first people he hired. Mr. Brandt is often credited with being the first to use computers for scouting and talent evaluations. He’s also responsible with helping create the NFL Scouting Combine.

8. Johnny Robinson– He played his whole career with the Dallas Texans who would later become the Kansas City Chiefs. He led the AFL in interceptions with 10 and with the Chiefs when the league became known as the NFL, he led the league with ten interceptions again in 1970. He’s the ninth member of the Chiefs team that won Super Bowl IV including coach Hank Stram to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.