College Football HOF Nominees Named

Derrick Thomas

The National Football Foundation has an election each year to put new members into the College Football Hall of Fame. For the past few years a burning question has been "Why isn't Derrick Thomas already in?" In fact, following last year's induction in which Thomas was by-passed, a popular column in sports circles centered on the omission.



Derrick Thomas, a unanimous All-America and the Butkus Award winner in 1988, is among three former Alabama players on this year's ballot. He is joined by former Crimson Tide stars Paul Crane, who played center and linebacker and was a leader on back-to-back national championships in 1964 and 1965, and Bobby Humphrey, the offensive player of the year in 1987.

This year's ballot has 75 players and six coaches from Football Bowl Subdivision (popularly known as Division I) and 87 players and 26 coaches from the lower divisional ranks.

Thomas, who went on to an outstanding professional career with the Kansas City Chiefs, died from complications following an automobile accident while still active as a pro player. He set the NCAA career sack record (52) and finished his Bama career with 74 tackles for loss. He was the 1988 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Crane succeeded Hall of Famer Lee Roy Jordan in the Alabama lineup and was a two-way star for the Tide. The consensus All-America was the 1965 SEC Lineman of the Year. He played with his college teammate, Joe Namath, with the New York Jets and after his playing career was a college coach, including serving on the staff of Paul Bryant at Alabama.

Humphrey was an All-America in 1987. Although he played just three years before going into the NFL with Denver, he rushed for 3,420 yards and 33 touchdowns in his career. His 4,958 all-purpose yards is still the Alabama record, as is his record of four games of over 200 yards rushing (including 284 against Mississippi State, second best in Bama history) and his 15 games rushing for 100 or more yards (tied with Shaun Alexander for first). His son, Marlon, will be a freshman for the Crimson Tide this season.

"It's an enormous honor to just be on the ballot when you think that more than 4.99 million people have played college football," said NFF President & CEO Steven J. Hatchell. "The Hall's requirement of being a first-team All-American creates a much smaller pool of only 1,500 individuals who are even eligible to be on the ballot, so being in today's elite group means an individual is truly among the greatest to ever have played the game, and we are proud to announce their names."

The 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class will be announced in May from Irving, Texas, and they will be inducted at the 57th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 9 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. The inductees will be permanently enshrined in the new College Football Hall of Fame at a date to be determined in 2015. The new Hall, currently under construction, will open in Atlanta in time for the 2014 college football season.

To be eligible for the ballot, players must have been named a First Team All-American by a major/national selector as recognized and utilized by the NCAA for their consensus All-America teams; played their last year of intercollegiate football at least 10 years prior; played within the last 50 years and cannot be currently playing professional football.

The first team All-America criteria results in such former Alabama stars as Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler being ineligible. A.J. McCarron, who starred for Bama the past three years, passed that critical barrier this year when he was named All-America byWalter Camp and the American Football Coaches Association.

Coaches must have coached a minimum of 10 years and 100 games as a head coach; won at least 60 percent of their games; and be retired from coaching for at least three years. If a coach is retired and over the age of 70, there is no waiting period. If he is over the age of 75, he is eligible as an active coach. In both cases, the candidate's post-football record as a citizen may also be weighed.

Alabama is represented by 22 men in the Hall of Fame, 18 as players and four as coaches. The players are:

Cornelius Bennett (1983-86), Johnny Mack Brown (1923-25), Johnny Cain (1930-32), Harry Gilmer (1944-47), John Hannah (1970-72), Frank Howard (1928-30, who was also a famed coach at Clemson), Dixie Howell (1932-24), Pooley Hubert (1922-25), Don Hutson (1932-34), Lee Roy Jordan (1960-62), Woodrow Lowe (1972-75), Vaughn Mancha (1944-47), Johnny Musso (1969-71), Billy Neighbors (1959-61), Ozzie Newsome (1974-77), Fred Sington (1928-30), Riley Smith (1933-35), and Don Whitmire (1941-44, who also starred at Navy when he transferred to the Naval Academy during World War II).

The coaches are Paul Bryant (1945-82, the last 25 years at his alma mater, Alabama), Gene Stallings (1990-96, who also coached at Texas A&M), Frank Thomas (1925-46, who started at Bama in 1931), and Wallace Wade (1925-30 at Alabama and 1931-50 at Duke). All of the Alabama coaches won national championships for the Crimson Tide.

Once nominated for consideration, all player candidates are submitted to one of eight District Screening Committees, depending on their school's geographic location, which conducts a vote to determine who will appear on the ballot and represent their respective districts. Each year, approximately 15 candidates, who are not selected for the Hall of Fame, will be named automatic holdovers and will bypass the district screening process and automatically appear on the ballot the following year. Additionally, the Veterans Committee may make recommendations to the Honors Court for exceptions that allow for the induction of players who played more than 50 years ago.

Of the 4.99 million individuals who have played college football since Princeton first battled Rutgers on Nov. 6, 1869, only 934 players have earned induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, or less than two ten-thousandths (.0002) of one percent of those who have played the game during the past 145 years. From the coaching ranks, 205 individuals have achieved Hall of Fame distinction.

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