Deion Sanders, Curtis Martin, Marshall Faulk and Jerome Bettis are among the first-year candidates eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Sanders, 43, played cornerback for five teams over his 14-year career. Also a kick and punt returner, Sanders was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and 1994 National Football League Defensive Player of the Year with the San Francisco 49ers. Sanders had 53 interceptions and scored 22 touchdowns in his career.
Martin, 37, played most of his 13-year career with the New York Jets. He led the league in rushing in 2004 and retired as the Jets’ all-time leading rusher. His 14,101 rushing yards are fourth-most in league history.
Faulk, 37, was drafted No. 2 by the Indianapolis Colts in 1994 and was traded to the St. Louis Rams in 1999. Over his 13-year career, Faulk was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He is the only player in league history to amass 12,000 yards rushing and 6,000 yards receiving.
Bettis, 38, spent nine of his 13 years in the league with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The 5-foot-10, 250-pound running back rushed for 13,653 yards and is fifth on the all-time rushing list. Bettis retired after the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2006.
Wide receiver Jimmy Smith, 11-time Pro Bowl tackle Willie Roaf and Super Bowl-winning coach Dick Vermeil are also first-year candidates.
To be considered for nomination by the Hall of Fame Selection Committee, a player or coach must be retired from the game for at least five years. There are 113 players, coaches and contributors on this year’s preliminary list of nominees, which will be trimmed to 25 in November and 15 finalists in January.