Sanders heads Hall inductees

Faulk, Sharpe in; Martin falls short

Deion Sanders (center), Marshall Faulk (left) and Shannon Sharpe head the 2010 Hall class. Deion Sanders (center), Marshall Faulk (left) and Shannon Sharpe head the 2010 Hall class. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)
By Greg A. Bedard
Globe Staff / February 6, 2011

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DALLAS — Former Patriots running back Curtis Martin will have to wait another year, but first-time eligible candidates Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk headlined a class of seven who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

The others who were elected by the board of selectors yesterday at the site of the Super Bowl were tight end Shannon Sharpe, defensive end Richard Dent, NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, and linebackers Les Richter and Chris Hanburger.

The group will be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 6.

Martin, who made the first cut from the list of 17 finalists, was New England’s third-round pick in the 1995 draft out of the University of Pittsburgh. He was the NFL Rookie of the Year with 1,487 yards and a conference-best 14 touchdowns. Martin rushed for 1,152 and 1,160 yards the next two seasons before becoming a restricted free agent.

That offseason, the Jets offered Martin a six-year, $36 million contract that included two “poison pills’’ designed to keep the Patriots from matching the offer: a clause that said Martin would become an unrestricted free agent the following season if the Patriots matched the offer, and a $3.3 million roster bonus.

The Patriots didn’t match, and Martin signed with the Jets in 1998 at the cost of a first- and third-round pick.

Martin, 37, went on to join Hall of Famer Barry Sanders as the only backs to start their careers with 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons.

Martin retired after 11 seasons, eight with the Jets, after the 2005 season with 14,101 yards rushing, 3,329 yards receiving and 100 touchdowns.

Sanders revolutionized football as a shutdown cornerback, and sports in general during a 14-year career that spanned five NFL and four Major League Baseball teams.

Known as “Prime Time,’’ Sanders was a two-time Super Bowl champion (49ers, Cowboys) and was the Defensive Player of the Year in 1994.

Faulk was a game-changer in his own right as a running back with the Colts, and then the Rams. With 12,279 yards rushing (10th all-time) and 6,875 receiving, Faulk became the first full-time dual threat out of the backfield.

He was a Super Bowl champion (’99 Rams), the ’94 Offensive Rookie of the Year, 2000 NFL MVP, and a three-time Offensive Player of the Year (1999-2001).

Sharpe won three Super Bowls in a four-year span during a 14-year career with the Broncos and Ravens. He retired in 2003, leading all tight ends in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

Dent was the MVP of the 1986 Super Bowl with the Bears and finished with 137 1/2 career sacks. Richter, who played linebacker for the Rams from 1954-62, was an eight-time Pro Bowler, and also played center and kicker. Hanburger went to nine Pro Bowls with the Redskins from 1965-78.

Richter and Hanburger were nominated as senior candidates.

Sabol, 94, was a controversial candidate because the Hall does not have a contributor slot. But the mark he has left by bringing the game and players to the fans is indelible.

During the voting, running back Jerome Bettis, receivers Tim Brown and Cris Carter, linebacker Chris Doleman, and defensive end Charles Haley did not make the first cut.

Martin, center Dermontti Dawson, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, receiver Andre Reed, and tackle Willie Roaf were eliminated as the list was pared to the maximum of five modern-era finalists

Philadelphia’s Michael Vick — who missed two seasons serving a federal sentence for dogfighting, then was a backup last year — was named the AP’s Comeback Player of the Year. Vick, who led the Eagles to the NFC East title, received 29 1/2 votes from a panel of 50 media members, easily besting Seattle receiver Mike Williams, who received eight votes.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Greg A. Bedard can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @greg_a_bedard.

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