Three senior candidates have moved one step closer to making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame's Seniors Committee named three finalists to be considered for the HOF Class of 2024 on Wednesday -- linebacker Randy Gradishar, defensive tackle Steve McMichael and wide receiver Art Powell.
The three senior finalists were chosen from a list of 12 candidates, which had been cut down from an initial group of 31 semifinalists. Each senior candidate finished his career during the 1998 season or earlier.
In order to be elected to the Hall, each of the senior finalists -- along with the 15 modern-era player finalists, plus one coach/contributor candidate (Buddy Parker in '24) -- require 80% of the vote from the entire 50-person selection committee when they meet early next year.
"Every one of the individual presentations for the 12 candidates by the members of the Seniors Committee participating Tuesday was outstanding, truly creating the possibility that each one could have reached the position of Finalist," Pro Football Hall Of Fame president Jim Porter said. "I applaud the committee for the thorough discussion and consideration for all 12. The depth of the Seniors pool came on full display once again."
Gradishar, the Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1978, was a key member of the Denver Broncos' "Orange Crush" defense, playing for the team from 1974 to 1983 and being named to seven Pro Bowls. He helped Denver reach Super Bowl XII and amazingly never missed a game -- playing 151 overall -- in his 10-year career.
McMichael -- nicknamed "Mongo" -- was one of the centerpieces of the Chicago Bears' famed defenses of the 1980s and remains beloved by Bears fans to this day. Like Gradishar, McMichael never missed a regular season game because of injury, spanning 15 seasons. McMichael's 95 sacks rank fourth all-time among defensive tackles.
Battling ALS for the past two years, McMichael has lost the ability to speak, along with his motor skills. McMichael recently was admitted to ICU after he fell unconscious, suffering from bouts of sepsis and pneumonia. But his wife, Misty, told the Chicago Sun-Times that she believes McMichael's HOF run has helped extend his life.
"He would have died at home if it wasn't for the nomination," she told the Sun-Times. "He was dying in front of us. We ripped up the DNR (do not resuscitate orders) because of the nomination. He has to live to see this."
Powell was a standout in the CFL, AFL and NFL, starting out as a defensive back before being moved to receiver. He starred for the New York Titans, starting in their inaugural season in the AFL in 1960, for three years, followed by four more with the Oakland Raiders. That's where he became a star, leading the AFL in receiving yards (1,304) and receiving touchdowns (16) in 1963 and leading the Raiders in receiving yards four straight seasons.
The nine candidates who did not make the cut were Ken Anderson, Maxie Baughan, Roger Craig, Joe Jacoby, Albert Lewis, Eddie Meador, Sterling Sharpe, Otis Taylor and Al Wistert. Last year, the Hall of Fame's Board of Trustees approved a bylaw change that increased the number of senior finalists from one to three.
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