After a knee-injury ended Curtis Martin’s playing career in 2005, many waited for the day the former New York Jet would be elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Today Martin joined Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, and Willie Roaf as the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2012.
Martin was elected in just his second year of eligibility and is the only running back in NFL history, aside from Barry Sanders, to run for 10 consecutive 1,000-yard seasons to start their career. He is currently ranked fourth on the all-time rushing list with 14,101 yards on the ground behind only Sanders, Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith.
Though not as prolific as Martin, the rest of the class represents some of the greatest talents of their respective generations. Doleman and Kennedy were two of the fiercest defensive linemen of the ‘90s. Although he led the NFL with 21 sacks in 1989, Doleman was a presence throughout the decade. He ended his career with 150.5 sacks, with 107 of them coming coming in the ‘90s.
Kennedy, a five-time pro bowler, spent his entire 11-year career with the Seattle Seahawks as a force against the run and opposing quarterbacks. Butler was a standout defensive back in the ‘50s known as a vicious open-field hitter. He scored four touchdowns and reached the pro bowl four times in just nine years. Dawson and Roaf were arguably the best offensive linemen of the ‘90s and earned 13 combined pro bowl nods during the decade.
Jerome Bettis, Cris Carter and Bill Parcells were finalists but were not elected.