Nine-time Pro Bowl defensive back Charles Woodson and standout Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday in their first year of eligibility.
Joining them in Canton from the modern-era finalists is former Pittsburgh Steelers guard Alan Faneca, elected in his sixth year of eligibility.
Also included in the Class of 2021 is former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson, who was elected as a senior inductee, and former Steelers scout/personnel executive Bill Nunn, who will be posthumously enshrined in the contributor category. Former Raiders and Seattle Seahawks coach Tom Flores, the lone finalist in the coach category, is also bound for Canton, a source told ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez.
The Class of 2021, which is currently being unveiled during the NFL Honors broadcast on CBS, was chosen Jan. 19 by the Hall’s board of selectors during a virtual meeting. The new Hall of Famers will be enshrined during a multiday event Aug. 5-9 in Canton. The extended enshrinement weekend will also include ceremonies for the Hall’s Class of 2020, as well and the Centennial class of Hall of Famers selected as part of the league’s 100th anniversary. Both were canceled last year because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Hall’s Class of 2020 includes Steve Atwater, Isaac Bruce, Steve Hutchinson, Edgerrin James and Troy Polamalu. The Centennial class includes Harold Carmichael, Jim Covert, Bill Cowher, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Jimmy Johnson, Alex Karras, Steve Sabol, Donnie Shell, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, Ed Sprinkle, Paul Tagliabue and George Young.
The league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, Woodson was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and finished his 18-year career tied for fifth in interceptions, with Ken Riley, with 65.
He led the league in interceptions with nine for the Packers in 2009, and earned a Super Bowl ring with Green Bay the following season.
The cornerback-turned-safety also forced 33 fumbles in his career, recorded 20 sacks and had three 90-tackle seasons, including 113 tackles with the Raiders at age 38.
Johnson played nine seasons for the Lions before abruptly retiring following the 2015 season, when he had 88 catches for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns. He recorded five 1,200-yard receiving seasons and ranks 31st in career receiving yards.
Because of the Lions’ struggles — something he later said contributed to his retirement — Johnson played in only two postseasons. He finished with 211 receiving yards and two touchdowns in his first postseason appearance, a 45-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC wild-card round that followed the 2011 season.
“The culmination of all the work, all the grind, all the ups-and-downs that you’ve been through, just to be able to excel at the level and be able to have the opportunity to be among such greats, I’m sleeping with a smile tonight,” Johnson said on the NFL Honors broadcast when told of his election.
Faneca was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and is one of 12 guards in NFL history to be named first-team All Pro six or more times — he was first-team All Pro six times, a streak that was only broken when the Steelers needed him to move to left tackle for much of the 2003 season because of injuries to other players.
Pearson was the only first-team selection to the All-Decade team of the 1970s who had not previously been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. A former college quarterback who made the Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted rookie wide receiver, Pearson was one of the elite of his era. His career was shortened by a liver injury he suffered in a car accident at age 33.
Nunn was a scouting pioneer, who began advising NFL teams on players from the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities he had evaluated as a sports writer. Nunn later spent more than four decades with the Steelers, and was a key figure in the team’s dynastic run in the 1970s and return to the Super Bowl in the decades that followed. He died in 2014.
Flores won Super Bowl rings as a player, assistant coach and head coach to go with an AFL championship as a player.
Flores and Hall of Famer Mike Ditka are the only people in NFL history who have been Super Bowl winners as players, assistant coaches and head coaches. His nine seasons as Raiders coach included two Super Bowl victories, an 8-3 postseason record and a playoff winning percentage of .727, which ranks behind only Vince Lombardi.