It's time to crank up the Time Machine again for another season worth of historical notes, quotes and anecdotes.
This week the Pro Football Hall of Fame released its preliminary list of nominees for the class of 2011. Headlining the list is one of our own, Deion Sanders. Sanders is universally considered to be one of the best cornerbacks to ever lace up a pair cleats on Sundays. When elected on the first ballot (notice I said when, and not if) in February 2011, Sanders will become the first Falcons draft pick to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Beyond the national headlines of first-time nominees of Sanders, running backs Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, the amount of Falcons on the overall list just might surprise you.
Six former Falcons players, one ex-coach and one former administrator for a grand total of eight birds with ties to the organization are on the list of the initial 113 modern era nominees. You might be surprised at the number of Falcons on the list, but there is no debate why each person made the first cut.
Running back Gerald Riggs, guard/tackle Chris Hinton, tackle Mike Kenn, defensive end Chris Doleman and linebacker Cornelius Bennett round out the players on the list. Former head coach Dan Reeves was named as one of the eight coaches and Bobby Beathard was listed as a candidate under contributors to the game.
Granted, the likes of Doleman, Bennett, Hinton, Reeves and Beathard are being judged on their overall stellar careers that include many accolades achieved away from their time in Atlanta. But their accomplishments for the Falcons also had a strong bearing on the franchise and this fact only lends more credence to their nominations.
Bennett, for example, was one of the team MVP's in 1998 as he helped the birds to their first Super Bowl with a monster season, which included a team-high 121 tackles, plenty of big plays, and tons of leadership inside the locker room. (For those scoring at home, Bennett played in 5 Super Bowls). Doleman continued to add to his legacy of being one of the best pass rushers of his era as he totaled 16 sacks in two seasons in a Falcons uniform, including being voted to one NFC Pro Bowl team.
You cannot discount Kenn's 251 career games played and five Pro Bowl appearances or Riggs' club record 6,631 rushing yards, three Pro Bowls and 69 career touchdowns either when examining their careers.