Brett Favre stood apart throughout his NFL career. It only makes sense that he didn't have to wait long to join other legends in Canton, Ohio.
Tony Dungy, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Ken Stabler and Dick Stanfel will join Favre in the 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, announced Saturday night at NFL Honors. Stabler and Stanfel were nominated by the Senior Committee. DeBartolo, the former 49ers owner, was enshrined as a nominee of the new Contributor Committee.
Noticeably absent from the list: first-ballot options Terrell Owens and Alan Faneca. Kurt Warner and Terrell Davis were also forced to wait another year for potential enshrinement. But Saturday's news was all about the eight men who will be immortalized in August with other football immortals.
Favre won the MVP award in three consecutive seasons from 1995 to 1997 and had a peak in his career that rivals any quarterback to ever play the game. His day in Canton was delayed a few seasons by coming out of retirement and finishing out his career with the Minnesota Vikings, a team he nearly took to the Super Bowl in the 2009 season. His arm strength, willingness to make difficult throws, and ability to play through any injury at a high level helped define a singular career. He finished his 20 seasons as the league's all-time leading passer in completions, yards, passing touchdowns and wins at quarterback.
The Hall of Fame committee righted a wrong by electing Harrison on his third year of eligibility. We've seen inferior players get in ahead of Harrison the last two years, but it was only a matter of time before he earned his due. Harrison was the silky-smooth deep threat who matched Peyton Manning's maniacal attention to detail with the Indianapolis Colts. Harrison was a rare route runner. He and Manning perfected the act of timing between a quarterback and a wide receiver. Defenses often knew what the Colts would do, but they were powerless to stop perfect execution.
The Colts drafted Harrison with a first-round pick acquired in a trade where Indy gave up Jeff George, a deal which worked out rather well. A six-time All-Pro, Harrison retired fourth all-time in receiving yards.
It will be special for Harrison to join the Hall of Fame with his former Colts coach. Tony Dungy packed a lot of winning into his 13 seasons as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Colts. Dungy immediately turned around a moribund Bucs franchise with his Tampa 2 defense and calm leadership. He became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl with Indy after the 2006 season, and retired with a 148-79 record.
Longtime St. Louis Rams tackle Orlando Pace, like Harrison, should have been a first-ballot pick. But it's great to see one of the most dominant players of his era get rewarded by the Hall of Fame committee. Pace, the first selection of the 1997 draft, made five All-Pro teams and seven Pro Bowls. He was still often the most overlooked superstar on one of the greatest offenses in NFL history. Pace moved with the agility of a wide receiver, his nimble feet helping to keep St. Louis quarterbacks clean year after year.
Pace waited for his second year of eligibility to be chosen as a modern-era candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Saturday marked the end of a 13-year wait for linebacker Kevin Greene. Best known for his days with the Rams and Steelers, Greene had double-digit sacks in 10 seasons. Greene's consistency, energy and aggression stand out. It's extremely rare for any player to be a first-team All-Pro three different times for three different teams, including the Carolina Panthers. He could get after the passer in any uniform.
It doesn't get any better for Eddie DeBartolo Jr. than learning about his enshrinement in San Francisco, the city he helped win five Super Bowls in. Beloved by his former players, DeBartolo hired Bill Walsh as head coach in 1979, turning the franchise around. He presided over a team that averaged 13 wins per season from 1981 to 1998. The 49ers were the first franchise to ever win five Super Bowls, and posted the best winning percentages in both the 1980s and 1990s.
Hearing about Ken Stabler's enshrinement is bittersweet. "The Snake" passed away last July at the age of 69. The winner of Super Bowl XI, Stabler was known for his love of life and fearless play at the end of games.
"I've often said, 'If I had one drive to win a game to this day, and I had a quarterback to pick, I would pick Kenny,'" former Raiders coach John Madden said last year. "Snake was a lot cooler than I was. He was a perfect quarterback and a perfect Raider. When you think about the Raiders, you think about Ken Stabler."
Guard Dick Stanfel was the anchor of a dominant Lions team, earning team MVP in their 1953 championship season. While he only played seven seasons in the NFL, he was a first-team All-Pro five times. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1950s. Stanfel passed away in June last year.
Favre figures to get the most attention in the time leading up to enshrinement, but all eight men deserve praise for climbing this final NFL mountain. Years after their playing career finished, they have achieved the greatest individual honor in the sport.