Former National Football League running backs Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk are among 26 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.
The Hall of Fame’s selection committee chose the semifinalists for the Class of 2011 from a list of 114 preliminary nominees. Deion Sanders, who played 17 NFL seasons as a cornerback and kick returner, was also selected as a semifinalist in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility.
Martin, 37, ranks fourth in NFL history with 14,101 rushing yards, trailing only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame.
Martin spent eight of his 11 seasons with the New York Jets and retired in 2005.
Bettis, 38, is the league’s fifth-leading rusher with 13,662 yards and won a Super Bowl title with the Pittsburgh Steelers during his last NFL season in 2005. He played 10 of his 13 seasons in Pittsburgh.
Faulk, 37, won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2000 and his 136 touchdowns are seventh-most in league history. He rushed for 12,279 yards in 12 seasons and won a Super Bowl ring with the St. Louis Rams after the 1999 season.
Former San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo, Jr. and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol -- both of whom were previously eligible -- are also semifinalists for the first time.
The group will be reduced to 15 finalists during a vote in January. The 2011 Hall of Fame class, which will include four to seven new members, will be determined Feb. 5, the day before the Super Bowl.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2011 Semifinalists =========================== Jerome Bettis, RB Tim Brown, WR/KR Cris Carter, WR Don Coryell, Coach Roger Craig, RB Terrell Davis, RB Dermontti Dawson, C Edward DeBartolo, Jr., Owner Richard Dent, DE Chris Doleman, DE/LB Marshall Faulk, RB Kevin Greene, LB/DE Ray Guy, P Charles Haley, DE/LB Lester Hayes, CB Cortez Kennedy, DT Curtis Martin, RB Art Modell, Owner Andre Reed, WR Willie Roaf, T Ed Sabol, Contributor Deion Sanders, CB/KR/PR Shannon Sharpe, TE Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner Aeneas Williams, CB/S George Young, Contributor