TAMPA, Fla. – The art of the sack was never lost on these five guys: Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Claude Humphrey, Richard Dent and John Randle.
Among the greatest practitioners of wrestling quarterbacks to the ground, they are among 17 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A minimum of four and a maximum of seven will be chosen today.
The list also includes Cortez Kennedy, a run-stuffing tackle with pass-rushing skills, who anchored Seattle’s defense for 11 seasons and made the all-decade team for the ’90s.
Smith is the career leader with 200 sacks in 18 years. He also was the defensive anchor for Buffalo Bills teams that went to four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s – and lost all four.
“I’ve had so many memorable experiences and wonderful relationships that I’ve built over the years,” Smith said. “And certainly I’m not being presumptuous to the extent that I’m saying this is automatically going to happen. But just the experience alone of being categorized as one of the best ever and certainly at my position. … ”
Dent and Randle are tied for sixth with 1371/2 career sacks, making Randle’s total more impressive because he was a tackle for the Vikings from 1990-2000, then played with Seattle for three years. He trails only Smith for consecutive seasons with at least 10 sacks (eight).
Dent starred for the Bears and led the league with 17 sacks in 1985, the year the Chicago defense throttled the rest of the NFL on the way to the Super Bowl title; he was MVP of that game. He played 15 seasons, 12 with Chicago.
Thomas is 11th in career sacks with 1261/2. A rushing outside linebacker who also had responsibilities in pass coverage for Kansas City, Thomas set an NFL mark with seven sacks in one game against Seattle on Nov. 11, 1990, a year in which he paced the NFL with 20 sacks.
Humphrey played his entire career (1968-81) before the sack became an official statistic, so records of his achievements are sketchy. But historians recall his fierce pass rush and the way he dominated blockers. He spent 11 seasons with the Falcons – he was 1968’s defensive rookie of the year – three with the Eagles.
They are not the only defensive players among the finalists.
Rod Woodson played cornerback and safety and was a solid kick returner from 1987-2003 with Pittsburgh, Baltimore.
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