The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced 15 Modern-Era finalists for the Class of 2024. This group of legendary players and coaches represents some of the best talent in NFL history and are one step closer to football immortality in Canton, Ohio.
Notable Finalists Headline 2024 Class
Some of the most notable finalists include:
- Julius Peppers – Dominant defensive end who ranks 4th all-time with 159.5 career sacks over 17 seasons with the Panthers, Bears, and Packers. 5-time First Team All-Pro selection.
- Antonio Gates – Revolutionary tight end who played his entire 16-year career with the Chargers. Had 116 career touchdowns, an NFL record for a tight end. 8-time Pro Bowler.
- Devin Hester – Considered the greatest return specialist in NFL history. Holds the NFL record with 20 return touchdowns (14 punt returns, 5 kick returns, 1 missed field goal) over his 11 seasons.
Other star finalists include wide receivers Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne, offensive tackle Willie Anderson, linebacker Patrick Willis, defensive end Jared Allen, and defensive back Darren Woodson among others.
Selection Process and Enshrinement
This group of 15 will be trimmed down to 5 Modern-Era inductees who will make up the 2024 Hall of Fame Class. They will be joined by inductees selected separately from Coach/Contributor finalists. The class will be voted on and announced in early February before the Super Bowl.
The enshrinement ceremony will occur in Canton next August where the new inductees are honored with bronze busts that will be displayed permanently at the Hall of Fame museum.
| Julius Peppers | DE | 2002-2018 | Panthers, Bears, Packers
| Antonio Gates | TE | 2003-2018 | Chargers
| Devin Hester | RS/WR | 2006-2016 | Bears, Falcons, Ravens
| Torry Holt | WR | 1999-2009 | Rams, Jaguars
| Reggie Wayne | WR | 2001-2014 | Colts
| Willie Anderson | OT | 1996-2007 | Bengals, Ravens
| Patrick Willis | LB | 2007-2014 | 49ers
| Jared Allen | DE | 2004-2015 | Chiefs, Vikings, Bears, Panthers
| Darren Woodson | S | 1992-2003 | Cowboys
While this year’s finalist group represents some of the NFL’s all-time greats, there were a few surprise omissions of players who were previously named semifinalists:
- Hines Ward – Steelers iconic wide receiver and Super Bowl XL MVP
- James Harrison – Steelers legendary pass-rushing linebacker
- Steve McMichael – Key member of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears defense
Their hopes for Canton immortality have been dashed this year, but they may find themselves back in consideration next year if they choose to remain on the Modern-Era ballot.
First-Year Eligible Nominees Have Strong Cases
In their initial year of Hall of Fame eligibility, Peppers and Gates make extremely compelling cases to be first-ballot selections.
Peppers retired after 2018 season and left as one of most feared pass rushers ever. He has the stats and accolades to back it up as 5-time First Team All-Pro and member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.
Similarly, Gates quickly became the gold standard for pass-catching tight ends. He and quarterback Philip Rivers formed one of the most prolific duos, breaking the mold for tight ends as dynamic receiving threats. Gates helped redefine the position.
Other Top Contenders
While Peppers and Gates grab headlines, other finalists have been waiting longer for their shot at Canton.
Candidates like Jared Allen, Torry Holt, Reggie Wayne, and Patrick Willis have been semifinalists before but are still seeking that coveted gold jacket.
Holt was a member of the high-scoring “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams offense in early 2000s while Wayne was a key cog in Peyton Manning’s offensive machine in Indianapolis. Allen led the NFL in sacks twice during his impressive career. Willis became the prototype for athletic, modern linebackers before injuries cut his 49ers career short.
These engraving-worthy resumes may finally be enough to get over the hump into the Pro Football Hall of Fame after years on the ballot.
Historic Franchises Seek More Representation
A few storied franchises are looking for more legendary contributors enshrined in Canton.
The Cincinnati Bengals hope to get offensive tackle Willie Anderson honored after being one of the premier players at his position in the 2000s. The Dallas Cowboys push for safety Darren Woodson to be their first defensive back inducted since Mel Renfro in 1996.
The 49ers believe Patrick Willis deserves a gold jacket after essentially redefining expectations for the linebacker position. The Panthers push for Julius Peppers as a no-brainer first-ballot Canton selection after he terrorized quarterbacks for nearly two decades.
Small School Standouts
A few nominees had unconventional paths to NFL stardom after coming from small school college programs.
Jared Allen played at little known Idaho State before becoming elite pass rushing terror. Jahri Evans went from Division II Bloomsburg University to being one of the top guards in the NFL and winning a Super Bowl with the Saints.
Their humble beginnings make their professional success even more impressive.
Specialists Get Recognition
The old stigma of specialists like kickers and returners having trouble getting into Canton is fading.
Devin Hester’s nomination shows the immense impact return aces can have, as highlight-reel specialists who change games. Hester might kick down the door for other non-traditional players.
Coaches/Contributors Waiting in Wings
While the Modern-Era players grab most attention, several all-time great coaches and contributors are finalists on a separate ballot.
Don Coryell, the influential head coach who pioneered the modern passing game, returns as finalist again this year seeking his bust in Canton.
Personnel gurus like former Packers GM Ron Wolf and influential owners like the late Art Modell are also hoping to get the nod after previously being named finalists.
The 2024 Hall of Fame Class has the potential to be one of the most star-studded groups in recent memory if the voters select deserving candidates like Julius Peppers, Antonio Gates and others in their first years of eligibility.
Several all-time great players are getting closer to finally having their gold jacket dreams realized after years of being bridesmaids as finalists. Iconic contributors from previous eras also look to finally get the Canton call.
The full slate of inductees who will be enshrined next August will be revealed during the NFL Honors show the night before Super Bowl LVIII in early February.
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