NFL: Meet the Hall of Fame Class of 2021 semifinalists (Part 3/3)
Welcome back for the final installment of our look at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021 semifinalists, a collection of NFL legends.
Let's get straight into it. In alphabetical order, the final nominees are...
Zach Thomas (LB, 1996-2008)
When Zach Thomas ducked his helmet and drove the shoulder in, you knew about it. The big hitter may have finished his career with the Cowboys, but it's in the famed aqua-white of the Miami Dolphins that fans will more likely remember him.
The talented, all-action linebacker retired from the game in 2008 with 17 interceptions and 20 sacks in 184 appearances.
It's the third consecutive year that the former Texas Tech star has reached the semifinals in Hall of Fame voting. He does feature on the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s, so this could well be the year he finally gets that prized bust cast.
Hines Ward (WR, 1998-2011)
In the great city of Pittsburgh, Hines Ward is a legend, and no wonder: It was there that his unique blend of tough running, electric pace and passion for the jersey helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls.
The combative receiver caught exactly 1,000 passes for the franchise, registering 12,083 yards, and 85 'tuddies.' Many a fine wideout have passed through the doors in Pittsburgh, but no player has caught more passes in Steelers' franchise history than Hines Ward, a true legend of the game.
Reggie Wayne (WR, 2001-2014)
Ward wasn't the only bona fide superstar receiver in the NFL during the 2000s, mind you. Over in Indianapolis, the Colts had a certain 'Sheriff (Manning)' in town, and one of his favorite receivers was none other than Reggie Wayne.
The former Colts' star is 10th on the NFL's all-time receiving yards list (14,345), had seven straight 1,000-yard seasons, tasted championship glory at Super Bowl XLl, and was quite simply one of the most electrifying players in the league from the early to mid-2000s.
No surprise to see him make the list; Reggie Wayne is a dead-cert for Hall of Fame honors.
Patrick Willis (LB, 2007-2014)
Patrick Willis represented the San Francisco 49ers for the entirety of his NFL career and there's little wonder the 49ers tied him down to a long-term deal: He was voted Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007.
Willis was a complete linebacker, skilled in all departments, able to break up plays, get pressure on the quarterback, and intercept passes. He finished his career with 950 tackles, 20.5 sacks, 8 interceptions, and 52 tackles-for-loss.
Willis could've racked up even more accolades if he wanted to, but he retired shortly after his 30th birthday due to nagging injuries.
Charles Woodson (CB/S, 1998-2015)
Without doubt one of the greatest defensive backs to ever play the game of football, Charles Woodson lit up the NFL during two stints with the Oakland Raiders (1998-2005, 2013-2015) and one with the Green Bay Packers (2006-2012) with whom he won a Super Bowl (XLV).
A ballhawk of the highest order, Woodson is the only player in NFL history to have amassed more than 25 interceptions with different franchises; was named NFL defensive player of the year in 2009, and is on the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s.
It's only a matter of time before he makes it into the Hall of Fame, whether it be this year or next, a player of his caliber is bound for it.
Darren Woodson (S, 1992-2003)
Darren Woodson represented the Dallas Cowboys for 11 distinguished years in the NFL. During that time, his knack for picking off quarterbacks on crucial downs became a key component in the team's charge towards 3 Super Bowl titles (XXVll, XXVll, and XXX).
Woodson will be hoping to add his name to the illustrious list of 1990s Dallas Cowboys who already feature in the Hall of Fame -- the likes of Troy Aikman, Micheal Irvin and Emmitt Smith.
Bryant Young (DT, 1994-2007)
With the seventh pick of the 1994 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected Bryant Young. The defensive lineman, who spent his college years at Notre Dame, would go on to spend 13 years with the organization in the NFC West, helping them to Super Bowl glory at Super Bowl XXlX.
It's not just the ring that sees the former 49ers' star in the semifinals: in 208 appearances, Young sacked opposition quarterbacks an astonishing 89.5 times (a franchise record) and features on the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1990s.