The Pro Football Hall of Fame just enshrined its 2022 class. Now it’s time to take a look forward as three longtime standouts may finally get their call.
“Members of the selection committee have made it clear they wanted to get more seniors ‘in the room’ for discussion,” explained Pro Football Hall of Fame president Jim Porter. “From those initial conversations, the team at the Hall of Fame overseeing the selection process worked with the board to create a path for those committee discussions that could lead to possible enshrinement for more seniors.”
In early July, the Hall presented its 24 senior candidates. About three weeks ago, that number was cut in half. And now the three senior nominees have been announced.
LB Chuck Howley (Chicago Bears, 1958-59; Dallas Cowboys, 1961-73)
The Super Bowl Era is now 56 years old. There has been one instance in which game MVP honors went to two players. Dallas Cowboys defensive linemen Randy White and Harvey Martin were co-MVPs of the club’s 27-10 win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XII.
There’s another Cowboys’ defensive standout that owns a little Super distinction. Linebacker Chuck Howley was the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl V, a 16-13 loss to the then-Baltimore Colts. He remains the only player on a losing team to capture those game honors.
Howley began his career with the Chicago Bears but is best known for his days with Tom Landry’s club. In 15 NFL seasons, he totaled 25 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries in the regular season. He would earn a ring with Dallas when the club won Super Bowl VI and during his days with Dallas was a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro.
DL Joe Klecko (New York Jets, 1977-87; Indianapolis Colts 1988)
He was a sixth-round selection back in 1977 from Temple University by the New York Jets. And reliable defensive standout Joe Klecko proved he was not a one-trick pony. He could line up anywhere on the defensive front regardless of the scheme. Hence, the versatile performer earned a total of four Pro Bowl invitations and was named All-Pro twice during his first 11 seasons in the league.
He was a Pro Bowler at defensive end, defensive tackle and nose tackle. Via Pro Football Reference, he racked up 78 career QB traps and was part of the Jets’ legendary front four that also included Marty Lyons and Abdul Salaam and exuberant Mark Gastineau.
CB Ken Riley (Cincinnati Bengals, 1969-83)
The NFL’s all-time interception leader is Pro Football Hall of Famer Paul Krause, who picked off a combined 81 passes in his days with Washington and Minnesota. He’s followed by Emlen Tunnell (79), Rod Woodson (71) and Dick “Night Train” Lane (68) – with all three also being enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
There’s a pair of defenders with 65 interceptions in the form of Charles Woodson (enshrined in 2021) and longtime Cincinnati Bengals’ ball hawk Ken Riley. The latter returned five of those aforementioned picks for touchdowns. And Riley was also credited with 18 fumble recoveries.
It adds up to three defensive stars that are quite overdue for Hall of Famer accolades. And we shall find out next February who will be headed to Canton next August.