The semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021 have been announced, so let's cast an eye over some of the legendary NFL talents competing to earn a place in the annals of football history.
There are 25 players shortlisted, so we've split it into three parts. In alphabetical order...
Eric Allen (CB, 1988-2001)
Eric Allen made his name at Philadelphia Eagles, where he was a fan favorite for 12 years. The cornerback who went on to represent the Oakland Raiders and New Orleans Saints during the twilight of his career retired with 54 interceptions and eight touchdowns to his name and also appeared in the Pro Bowl six times.
Jared Allen (DE, 2004-2015)
Well-traveled defensive end Jared Allen played for the Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, but it was with the Carolina Panthers during the twilight of his career that the veteran came closest to winning what proved to be an elusive Super Bowl ring.
Allen and the Panthers came up short in Super Bowl 50. (I intrinsically remember feeling terrible for him as I watched the game on TV at a hotel-bar in Bangkok, Thailand. He deserved a more fitting end.)
Even so, the Idaho State product undoubtedly had an incredible NFL career, finishing up with a monstrous 136 sacks (including a 22-sack season in 2011 with the Vikings), so it's no surprise to see him up for Hall of Fame.
Willie Anderson (OT, 1996-2008)
Willie Anderson is one of the very few offensive linemen to make it to this year's semifinal vote, and deservedly so. The offensive tackle finished up a tremendous NFL career at Baltimore Ravens (2008), but it was down in Cincinnati with the Bengals (1996-2007) that the 4-time Pro Bowler is remembered best and where he built his Hall of Fame resume.
Ronde Barber (CB, 1997-2012)
This one is a no-brainer. Ronde Barber is a legend in Florida and without a doubt one of the best cornerbacks to ever lace up the cleats. The versatile defensive playmaker deservedly hoisted the Lombardi Trophy with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and is the only player to ever rack up more than 25 career sacks and 40 career interceptions in the history of the NFL. To cap it all off, Barber also appears on the NFL's 2000s All-Decade team, a true legend of the game.
Cornelius Bennett (LB, 1987-2000)
Another member of an NFL All-Decade team (1990s), Cornelius Bennett made a name for himself with the Buffalo Bills during the early '90s, appearing in four Super Bowls (although the Bills lost each time). Bennett went to the Atlanta Falcons for the latter half of the decade and again made it within a whisker of a Super Bowl ring. Nonetheless, Cornelius Bennett finished with career stats of 71.5 sacks, 7 interceptions, and 27 fumble recoveries and more than warrants a place on the list for this year's Hall of Fame honors; he'd quite likely already be on it had just one of those 5 Super Bowl appearances gone his way.
Tony Boselli (OT, 1995-2001)
Tony Boselli's NFL career might have been cut short by a shoulder injury, but he is commonly thought of as one of the games' greatest ever talents at offensive tackle. The former Jacksonville Jaguars legend, who was the franchise's first-ever draft pick, was named as First Team All-Pro on 3 occasions and made the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s.
LeRoy Butler (S, 1990-2001)
LeRoy Butler is one the finest safeties to ever pull on the famous green and yellow jersey. The former Packer lit up the NFL during the '90s with 38 career interceptions during an 11-year stay in Green Bay. He made it onto the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s and even won a Super Bowl in 1996.
Alan Faneca (OG, 1998-2010)
A Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the domineering and intimidating Alan Faneca enjoyed a remarkable NFL career at offensive guard. He was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s, and after short stints with the Jets and the Cardinals finished his career having been named First Team All-Pro on six occasions.
Rodney Harrison (S, 1994-2008)
Rodney Harrison spent most of his NFL career with the San Diego Chargers (1994-2002) and by the end of his career was listed as one of only two players (the other being none other than Ray Lewis) to appear in the NFL's 30/30 club (30 career sacks, 30 career interceptions). It was during the latter stages of his career with the Patriots (2003-2008) that the versatile, all-action safety lifted the game's major honors though, winning two Super Bowls. It's also worth noting that Harrison holds the record for the most sacks by a defensive back, so we fully expect to see him enter the Hall of Fame with the 2021 class.