By Devon POV Mason | Shadow League Reporter
The Pro Football Hall of Fame capped a busy weekend of celebration that included the Annual Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
The 2020 NFL preseason and 2020 induction ceremonies were canceled last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The combined weekend of inductions were led by five-time league MVP Peyton Manning who headlined the 2021 class specifically.
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Manning actually headlined the entire event, along with a modern-era group of former legends, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Alan Faneca and John Lynch.
Hall of Fame busts were also unveiled Sunday for senior-inducted Drew Pearson, former coach Tom Flores, and contributor and longtime scout Bill Nunn.
Manning, was the biggest no-brainer among the group, he earned 14 Pro Bowl selections (tied for most in NFL history) and seven AP first-team All-Pro nods, revolutionized play-calling at the QB position and accumulated more MVP awards than any other player in league history.
The two-time NFL champion was the first starting quarterback in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two different franchises, Indianapolis in 2006 and Denver in his final season of 2015.
In typical rival fashion, the ageless one Tom Brady who began his career three seasons after Manning and is still playing, was in attendance to see his good friend and longtime rival inducted.
Manning even joked about him still playing during his speech and had this to say.
“By the time Tom Brady is inducted in his first year of eligibility it’ll be 2035, and he’ll only have time to post his acceptance speech on his Instagram account,” referencing the Hall’s requested speech guidelines of six minutes per person.
Former Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson who endured a 33-year wait until finally being voted to football’s most exclusive club, was first to speak, but he totally ignored the requested restrictions and spoke for more than 11 minutes.
But hey, he waited 33 long years for that moment so a couple more minutes didn’t hurt anyone. Pearson’s catch in 1975 against the Vikings in the playoffs is where the word “Hail Mary” was born.
Tom Flores spoke next. After 10 seasons as a quarterback in the AFL, he became the NFL’s second Hispanic head coach and first ever to win a Super Bowl in 1980 with the Oakland Raiders.
He then led the Raiders to another Super Bowl three years later, this time the team played in Los Angeles. Flores still owns the league’s second best playoff mark at 8-3 (.727) — trailing only the iconic Vince Lombardi.
John Lynch, is currently the general manager of the San Francisco 49ers. This draft was a rich one for prolific safeties as Lynch was one of five players whose primary position was safety to be inducted.
He earned nine Pro Bowl berths in his 15 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2003) and Denver Broncos (2004-2007).
His momma named him Calvin Johnson, but we know him as “Megatron,” who abruptly retired in 2015 at age 30.
That abrupt departure and the never-ending battle with the Lions organization over the way Megatron exited the game, didn’t stop him from becoming the second-youngest Hall of Famer voted in on his first ballot, joining the great Gale Sayers.
Megatron led the league in receiving yards twice and still owns the single-season mark of 1,964 yards in 2012.
Former Steelers, Jets and Cardinals guard Alan Faneca was downright dominant during his playing days. He earned nine Pro Bowls and was a six-time All-Pro first-teamer.
You always here folks talk about who the greatest corners in NFL history are, and Charles Woodson is so deserving of being on any of those lists. IMO no defensive back made more game-changing plays in their career. He had 65 career interceptions (5th all-time, 33 forced fumbles, 18 fumble recoveries and 13 defensive touchdowns (tied for the most in NFL history).
The great Bill Nunn entered the Hall posthumously as he passed in 2016.
During his 47 years spent with the Steelers organization he helped the franchise in drafting several Hall of Famers en route to four Super Bowl wins in the 1970’s.
Nunn is credited with being among the first to start scouting players from historically black colleges, and the franchise benefited greatly from his work by drafting stalwarts such as John Stallworth, Mel Blount and Donnie Shell.
Class of 2020
The Class of 2020 that was honored Saturday included safety Steve Atwater, wide receiver Isaac Bruce who is the only receiver in NFL history with two touchdowns of at least 70 yards in the same postseason.
Bruce was presented by his brother and by longtime NFL PR legend Tony Wyllie. Wyllie recently retired from his lofty NFL PR gig and became Regional President & Managing Director of Special Olympics operations in North America, Canada, and the Caribbean.
Also included it this class are guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James who was always better than Ricky Williams and Troy Polamalu one of the five best safeties to ever play the game.
The Centennial group included two head coaches — Jimmy Johnson, one of two men to win both a National Championship (Miami) and Super Bowl (Cowboys), the other being Barry Switzer (Oklahoma and Cowboys).
And Bill Cowher one of the only three coaches the Steelers have had since 1970. Three contributors received their just due with Steve Sabol (NFL Films), former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former Giants owner George Young were all enshrined.