CANTON, Ohio — Running backs Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk and cornerback Deion Sanders are among 15 finalists announced Sunday for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2011.
Martin, Bettis and Faulk are among the NFL’s top 10 leading rushers, and are eligible for the first time. Sanders and offensive tackle Willie Roaf also are eligible for the first time.
The other finalists are receivers Tim Brown, Andre Reed and Cris Carter; centre Dermontti Dawson; defensive ends Richard Dent, Charles Haley and Chris Doleman; defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy; and tight end Shannon Sharpe, along with NFL filmmaker Ed Sabol.
The 15 finalists, plus senior nominees Chris Hanburger and Les Richter will be considered for induction Feb. 5, the day before the Super Bowl. The enshrinement is in August.
Martin retired from the New York Jets as the No. 4 overall rusher with 14,101 yards in 11 seasons. One of the most consistent backs of his era, he ran for 1,000 yards in 10 straight seasons.
Bettis ranks fifth at 13,662 yards in 13 seasons, three for the Rams and a decade with the Steelers, with whom he won the 2006 Super Bowl in his final game.
Faulk is 10th in rushing with 12,279 yards for the Colts and Rams and won the 2000 Super Bowl with St. Louis. A prime receiver out of the backfield, Faulk was the 2000 NFL MVP.
Sanders scored nine times on interceptions, also played offence at times, and is a former major league baseball player. He won the 1995 Super Bowl with San Francisco and the 1996 game with Dallas.
Roaf, the eighth overall draft choice in 1993 by New Orleans, played right tackle as a rookie, then spent the next 12 seasons as a left tackle. He made 11 Pro Bowls as a premier blocker, particularly in pass protection, and was voted the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team.