By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson is more than one of 26 modern-era semifinalists named Wednesday for the Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. He's a favorite to make it to Canton on his first try.
Tomlinson, who holds the NFL single-season record for touchdowns (31), is fifth on the league's career rushing list and was the 2006 league MVP, is one of four first-year eligibles named as semifinalists. The others are defensive end Jason Taylor, safety Brian Dawkins and wide receiver Hines Ward.
Of that group, Tomlinson is a virtual certainty to go in first. But the smart money says he goes in on his first try, just as Brett Favre did this year, and for good reason: He's one of the most qualified … if not THE most qualified … candidates in the entire group.
"The thing I liked about L.T.s game," Hall-of-Fame running back Eric Dickerson said on a Talk of Fame Network broadcast in September, "was that you never knew when – but it was going to happen sooner or later; he was going break a big run, if it was out of the backfield or catching a screen play. He was always that home-run hitter.
"They were never out of it when he played in San Diego. He gave the San Diego fans a lot of pride and a lot of excitement. When you have a player that … you never know what's going to happen … that’s the kind of guy who's a Hall-of-Fame player."
The 48 Hall-of-Fame selectors agreed and should make Tomlinson one of 15 finalists when those names are revealed in January. The selection for Hall-of-Fame induction occurs the day before Super Bowl LI, with the Hall's board of selectors cutting the field from 15 to 10 and then to five.
Votes also will be taken on contributor candidates Jerry Jones and Paul Tagliabue, as well as senior nominee Kenny Easley. They must gain 80 percent of the ballots to be inducted.
While Tomlinson is the favorite among modern-era candidates, former quarterback Kurt Warner isn’t far behind – with the former Rams' and Cardinals' star a popular pick to make it on his third try. Warner made the cut to 10 the past two years, which puts him on the doorstep to Canton.
Tackle Joe Jacoby, running back Terrell Davis, safety John Lynch and former coach Don Coryell were others who made it to 10 this year but didn’t survive the last cutdown. All are considered possibilities for 2017, a class where the one sure thing appears to be Tomlinson.
But keep your eyes on Jacoby. He made the list of finalists this year for the first time in his 18 years of eligibility. Then he surprised everyone by moving into the Top 10, a launching pad for the next year.
Jacoby is one of six offensive linemen named Wednesday, a group that includes the only candidate never named as semifinalist – former Colts' and Falcons' tackle and guard, Chris Hinton. Hinton appeared on the Talk of Fame Network this summer to argue his case, and he made a compelling one.
"As a voter," he said, "it's tough to wrap your arms around a career you did not see, or it's basically going on paper. Being the only player to make the Pro Bowl at four different positions, nobody knows that But if I was a receiver or running back and gained 2,000 yards … everybody would know that."
(LaDainian Tomlinson photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers)
(urt Warner photo courtesy of the Arizona Cardinals)
SEMIFINALISTS FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMES CLASS OF 2017
QB (1) -- Kurt Warner.
RB (4) – Terrell Davis, Roger Craig, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson
WR (4) – Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Terrell Owens, Hines Ward
OL (6) – Tony Boselli, Alan Faneca, Chris Hinton, Joe Jacoby, Mike Kenn, Kevin Mawae.
DE (1) – Jason Taylor.
LB (2) – Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg.
CB (1) – Ty Law.
S (4) – Steve Atwater, Brian Dawkins, John Lynch, Darren Woodson.
P (1) – Morten Andersen.
COACH (2) – Don Coryell, Jimmy Johnson.