The 2011 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was recently announced, and the seven newest members to be enshrined in Canton are Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Ed Sabol, Richard Dent, Chris Hanburger, and Les Richter. The Pittsburgh Steelers did not have their 21st and 22nd members inducted into the Hall unfortunately, as Dermontti Dawson and Jerome Bettis did not receive the necessary votes to make it to Canton. I didn't think that Bettis had much of a shot to get in as a first ballot guy. His time will come no doubt. Just not yet. But I did think that Dawson might sneak in this year. Oh well, someday.
The seven players to receive the highest individual honor in football were:
Richard Dent -- the former Chicago Bears defensive end finally gets the nod after a decade of eligibility. Dent finished his career with 137.5 sacks, still good for sixth most all time.
Chris Hanburger -- the least known of this year's class played linebacker for the Washington Redskins from 1965 to 1978. Despite being undersized even for his time, Hanburger earned the nickname 'The Hangman' for his rough and tumble style of play.
Shannon Sharpe -- the current CBS analyst becomes just the eighth tight end to make it to the Hall. Sharp retired with three Super Bowl rings -- two with Denver and one with Baltimore -- over 10,000 receiving yards and 62 touchdowns. Not bad for a guy who was a seventh-round draft pick.
Ed Sabol -- Peter King will be happy that the founder of NFL Films finally got his overdue recognition as one of the most important individuals in the history of the game. Sabol first filmed an NFL game in 1962, the championship game between the Giants and Packers. Two years later in '64, Sabol transformed his production company into NFL Films, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Marshall Faulk -- Over the course of his 12 seasons in the NFL, Faulk rushed for over 12,000 yards, and 100 rushing scores. He was also a enormous threat as a pass-catching 'back, something Kurt Warner took maximum advantage of during Faulk's tenure in St. Louis. The Rams team that won Super Bowl XXXIV will always be remembered as 'The Greatest Show on Turf', but it was really Faulk's productivity out of the backfield that catalyzed their offense.
- Deion Sanders -- Primetime is heading to Canton in his first year of eligibility. Over the course of his 14-year career, Sanders had an impressive 21 touchdowns (six from punt returns, three from kick returns, nine from interception returns, and three as a wide receiver). When he wasn't dabbling in baseball, Sanders also managed to snag 53 interceptions. All very impressive, but I don't know if Sanders is really deserving of a first-ballot induction.
- Les Richter -- the former Los Angeles Rams linebacker is this year's senior nominee. Richter played from 1954 to 1962. Richter's accomplishments include eight straight Pro Bowl appearances, never missing a game during his 112-game career, intercepting 16 passes, and having the Rams deal 11 players to obtain him.