Safeties Troy Polamalu, Steve Atwater voted to Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Packers' LeRoy Butler doesn't make it

Safeties Troy Polamalu, Steve Atwater voted to Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Packers' LeRoy Butler doesn't make it

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MIAMI — He grew his hair so long, it flowed out of his helmet and obscured the name on the back of his jersey.

Didn't matter. Everyone knew where to find Troy Polamalu on Sundays.

The Pittsburgh Steelers great earned a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with another hard-hitting safety, Steve Atwater of the Denver Broncos.

But not making it was Green Bay Packers safety LeRoy Butler, who was a finalist for the first time.

“Sorry Packers fans,” Butler wrote on Twitter. “I missed it this year!! Thank you to all the fans that voted for me!! GOD IS GOOD!!!”

Butler is a four-time All-Pro and a member of the NFL’s 1990s All-Decade team. He played 12 seasons in Green Bay and participated in two Super Bowls, including a win in Super Bowl XXXI.

With Atwater’s induction, Butler is now the only player from the 1990’s All-Decade team not in the Hall of Fame.

Also voted in Saturday were receiver Isaac Bruce, running back Edgerrin James and guard Steve Hutchinson.

Polamalu said he went six or seven years, maybe longer, without cutting his hair during the prime of his career, which lasted from 2003-14.

But as much as for the hair, he earned the nickname “Tasmanian Devil” for how he changed the way people thought about the safety position — bolting around the field, making plays from practically anywhere. No quarterback, runner or receiver was safe.

Selected in his first year of eligibility, Polamalu was a four-time All-Pro, was voted to eight Pro Bowls and finished with two Super Bowl rings in three trips. His pick-6 against Joe Flacco in the 2008 AFC title game was part of a dominating performance in what might have been his best season; he had seven interceptions that year and the Steelers won the Super Bowl.

Polamalu will go in during the same year as Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher and defensive back Donnie Shell, each of whom were voted in as part of the hall's special centennial class designed to celebrate the NFL"s 100th year.

"It’s a huge blessing to go in with coach Cowher and a tremendous honor to go in with Donnie Shell because the Steelers’ defenses in the ‘70s laid our foundation,” Polamalu said.

Though game-changing safeties were nothing new to the league, Polamalu could line up near the linebackers, or the defensive linemen, or deep in the backfield, and wreck a game plan from any of those spots.

“He's waking people up to the impact a safety can have in today's game,” another safety, John Lynch, said in an interview while Polamalu was in his prime.

Lynch, in Miami this week as GM of the 49ers, was also among the 15 finalists whose resumes were debated and discussed throughout the day by the panel of four dozen voters. But he did not make the cut. Neither did Tony Boselli, the dominant Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman whose career lasted only 91 games because of shoulder injuries. The Jaguars are still without a player in the hall.

An offensive lineman did make it, though. It was Hutchinson, who played guard for the Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans over a 12-year career. He'd been a finalist in all three years since becoming eligible and broke through in this, a class that didn't include any slam dunks — or a single quarterback among the list of finalists.

“I’ve written the speech the past few years in the shower and it’ll really be about the people who helped me get here,” Hutchinson said.

Atwater made it — in his 16th year of eligibility, no less — and became the first home-grown Broncos defender to join the hall. (An honor many in Denver believe should belong to Orange Crush linebacker Randy Gradishar.)

Atwater said when he got the much-anticipated knock on his hotel door "it was pretty obvious it wasn’t the maid so I was pretty excited. I’m extremely honored to go in with all these men.”

A two-time All-Pro who won two Super Bowls, Atwater prowled the backfield and delivered vicious hits to anyone coming across. One irony of Atwater's late-recognized greatness is that many of his whiplash-inducing hits would be illegal in today's NFL.

Though receivers were mostly at risk, it was his shoulder-to-shoulder disintegration of 250-pound Kansas City Chiefs running back Christian Okyoe, “The Nigerian Nightmare,” while mic'd up on “Monday Night Football” in 1990 that truly put Atwater on the map.

James may not have had a singular moment like that, but he was a bastion of versatility and durability. He made a name for himself with his ability to carve out room on the ground while playing in Peyton Manning's offense with the Indianapolis Colts from 1999-2005. James also played three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals and a half-year with the Seahawks.

“Started With Gold Teeth, Ended With a Gold Jacket,” James posted on social media after receiving the word.

James finished with more than 3,300 yards receiving and more than 12,000 yards rushing. He won the NFL rushing title in 1999 and 2000, no small thing given Manning was revving up his career at the time. James joins Colts wideout Marvin Harrison in the hall, which will give Manning more company next year when he'll be a shoo-in to join them on his first ballot.

Bruce was a headliner in “The Greatest Show on Turf,” the pass-happy attack run by Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner when the Rams were in St. Louis. This was Bruce's sixth season of eligibility and his fourth time as a finalist.

His 15,208 yards receiving over 16 seasons were second in the NFL record book when he retired in 2009. But he was never selected an AP All-Pro, and some critics dismissed his stats as being more a sign of his longevity and the passing era he played in than any mark of true greatness.

No matter. He was elated. “St. Louis, we headed to Canton!" he tweeted.

There were no seniors announced Saturday, as they were folded into the centennial class. Others going in with that class, which was announced last month: Harold Carmichael, Alex Karras, Jim Covert, Bobby Dillon, Cliff Harris, Winston Hill, Duke Slater, Mac Speedie, Ed Sprinkle, along with coaches Jimmy Johnson, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the late NFL Films exec Steve Sabol and longtime GM George Young.


Members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

(x-old-timer/senior nominee; c-Centennial Class)

Herb Adderley, defensive back

Troy Aikman, quarterback

x-George Allen, coach

Larry Allen, guard/tackle

Marcus Allen, running back

Lance Alworth, wide receiver

Morten Anderson, placekicker

Doug Atkins, defensive end

Steve Atwater, safety

x-Morris "Red" Badgro, end

Champ Bailey, cornerback

Lem Barney, cornerback

Cliff Battles, halfback

Sammy Baugh, quarterback

Bobby Beathard, general manager/personnel administrator

Chuck Bednarik, center-linebacker

Bert Bell, NFL commissioner-team owner

Bobby Bell, linebacker

Raymond Berry, end

Elvin Bethea, defensive end

Jerome Bettis, running back

Charles W. Bidwell Sr., team owner

Fred Biletnikoff, wide receiver

George Blanda, quarterback-placekicker

Mel Blount, cornerback

Pat Bowlen, owner

Terry Bradshaw, quarterback

Gil Brandt, vice president of player personnel

x-Robert Brazile, linebacker

Derrick Brooks, linebacker

x-Bob Brown, offensive tackle

Jim Brown, fullback

Paul Brown, coach

Roosevelt Brown, tackle

Tim Brown, wide receiver-kick returner

Willie Brown, cornerback

Isaac Bruce, wide receiver

Buck Buchanan, defensive tackle

x-Jack Butler, defensive back

x-Nick Buoniconti, linebacker

Dick Butkus, linebacker

Earl Campbell, running back

x-Tony Canadeo, halfback

c-Harold Carmichael, wide receiver

Joe Carr, NFL president

Harry Carson, linebacker

Cris Carter, wide receiver

Dave Casper, tight end

Guy Chamberlin, end-coach

Jack Christiansen, safety

Earl "Dutch" Clark, quarterback

George Connor, tackle-linebacker

Jimmy Conzelman, quarterback-coach

c-Jim Covert, tackle

c-Bill Cowher, coach

x-Lou Creekmur, tackle-guard

Larry Csonka, running back

x-Curley Culp, defensive tackle

Al Davis, team owner-league administrator

Terrell Davis, running back

Willie Davis, defensive end

Brian Dawkins, safety

Dermontti Dawson, center

Len Dawson, quarterback

Fred Dean, defensive end

x-Eddie DeBartolo, owner

Joe DeLamielleure, guard

Richard Dent, defensive end

Eric Dickerson, running back

Dan Dierdorf, tackle

c-Bobby Dillon, safety

Mike Ditka, tight end

Chris Doleman, defensive end/linebacker

Art Donovan, defensive tackle

Tony Dorsett, running back

John Driscoll, quarterback

Bill Dudley, halfback

Tony Dungy, coach

Kenny Easley, safety

Glen "Turk" Edwards, tackle

x-Carl Eller, defensive end

John Elway, quarterback

Weeb Ewbank, coach

Marshall Faulk, running back

Brett Favre, quarterback

Tom Fears, end

Jim Finks, administrator

x-Ray Flaherty, coach

Len Ford, defensive end

Dan Fortmann, guard

Dan Fouts, quarterback

x-Benny Friedman, quaterback

x-Frank Gatski, center

Bill George, linebacker

Joe Gibbs, coach

Frank Gifford, halfback

Sid Gillman, coach

Tony Gonzalez, tight end

Otto Graham, quarterback

Red Grange, halfback

Bud Grant, coach

Kevin Greene, linebacker-defensive end

Russ Grimm, guard

Darrell Green, cornerback

Joe Greene, defensive tackle

Forrest Gregg, tackle

Bob Griese, quarterback

Lou Groza, tackle-kicker

x-Ray Guy, punter

Joe Guyon, halfback

George Halas, end-coach-owner

Charles Haley, defensive end-linebacker

Jack Ham, linebacker

Dan Hampton, defensive lineman

x-Chris Hanburger, linebacker

John Hannah, guard

c-Cliff Harris, safety

Franco Harris, running back

Marvin Harrison, wide receiver

x-Bob Hayes, wide receiver

Mike Haynes, cornerback

Ed Healey, tackle

Mel Hein, center

Ted Hendricks, linebacker

Wilbur "Pete" Henry, tackle

Arnie Herber, quarterback

Bill Hewitt, end

x-Gene Hickerson, guard

c-Winston Hill, tackle

Clarke Hinkle, fullback

Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, halfback-end

Paul Hornung, halfback

Ken Houston, safety

Cal Hubbard, tackle

Sam Huff, linebacker

x-Claude Humphrey, defensive end

Lamar Hunt, team owner

Steve Hutchinson, guard

Don Hutson, end

Michael Irvin, wide receiver

Rickey Jackson, linebacker

Edgerrin James, running back

Jimmy Johnson, cornerback

c-Jimmy Johnson, coach

x-John Henry Johnson, fullback

Charlie Joiner, wide receiver

Dave "Deacon" Jones, defensive end

Jerry Jones, team owner

x-Stan Jones, offensive guard-defensive tackle

Walter Jones, tackle

x-Henry Jordan, defensive tackle

Sonny Jurgensen, quarterback

c-Alex Karras, defensive tackle

Jim Kelly, quarterback

x-Leroy Kelly, running back

Cortez Kennedy, defensive tackle

Walt Kiesling, guard-coach

Frank "Bruiser" Kinard, tackle

x-Jerry Kramer, guard

Paul Krause, safety

Earl "Curly" Lambeau, coach

Jack Lambert, linebacker

Tom Landry, coach

Dick "Night Train" Lane, cornerback

Jim Langer, center

Willie Lanier, linebacker

Steve Largent, wide receiver

Yale Lary, defensive back-punter

Dante Lavelli, end

Ty Law, cornerback

Bobby Layne, quarterback

x-Dick LeBeau, cornerback

x-Alfonse "Tuffy" Leemans, fullback

Marv Levy, coach

Ray Lewis, linebacker

Bob Lilly, defensive tackle

x-Floyd Little, running back

Larry Little, guard

James Lofton, wide receiver

Vince Lombardi, coach

Howie Long, defensive end

Ronnie Lott, cornereback-safety

Sid Luckman, quarterback

Roy "Link" Lyman, tackle

Tom Mack, guard

John Mackey, tight end

x-John Madden, coach

Tim Mara, team owner

Wellington Mara, team owner

Gino Marchetti, defensive end

Dan Marino, quarterback

George Preston Marshall, team owner

Curtis Martin, running back

Ollie Matson, halfback

Bruce Matthews, offensive lineman

Kevin Mawae, center-guard

Don Maynard, wide receiver

George McAfee, halfback

Mike McCormack, offensive tackle

Randall McDaniel, guard

x-Tommy McDonald, wide receiver

Hugh McElhenny, halfback

Johnny "Blood" McNally, halfback

Mike Michalske, guard

Wayne Millner, end

Bobby Mitchell, running back-wide receiver

Ron Mix, tackle

Art Monk, wide receiver

Joe Montana, quarterback

Warren Moon, quarterback

Lenny Moore, flanker-running back

Randy Moss, wide receiver

Marion Motley, fullback

Mike Munchak, guard

Anthony Munoz, offensive tackle

x-George Musso, guard-tackle

Bronko Nagurski, fullback

Joe Namath, quarterback

Earle "Greasy" Neale, coach

Ernie Nevers, fullback

Ozzie Newsome, tight end

Ray Nitschke, linebacker

Chuck Noll, coach

Leo Nomellini, defensive tackle

Jonathan Ogden, tackle

Merlin Olsen, defensive tackle

Jim Otto, center

Steve Owen, tackle-coach

x-Orlando Pace, offensive tackle

Terrell Owens, wide receiver

Alan Page, defensive tackle

Bill Parcells, coach

x-Clarence "Ace" Parker, quarterback

Jim Parker, guard-tackle

Walter Payton, running back

Joe Perry, fullback

Pete Pihos, end

Troy Polamalu, safety

Bill Polian, contributor

x-Fritz Pollard, running back

John Randle, defensive tackle

Hugh "Shorty" Ray, supervisor of officials

Andre Reed, wide receiver

Ed Reed, free safety

Dan Reeves, team owner

Mel Renfro, cornerback-safety

Jerry Rice, wide receiver

x-Les Richter, linebacker

John Riggins, running back

Jim Ringo, center

Willie Roaf, tackle

x-Dave Robinson, linebacker

x-Johnny Robinson, safety

Andy Robustelli, defensive end

Art Rooney, team owner

Dan Rooney, team ownerPete Rozelle, NFL commissioner

x-Bob St. Clair, tackle

Ed Sabol, founder NFL Films

c-Steve Sabol, president NFL Films

Barry Sanders, running back

x-Charlie Sanders, tight end

Deion Sanders, cornerback-kick returner

Warren Sapp, defdensive tackle

Gale Sayers, running back

Joe Schmidt, linebacker

Tex Schramm, team president-general manager

Junior Seau, linebacker

Lee Roy Selmon, defensive end

Shannon Sharpe, tight end

x-Billy Shaw, guard

Art Shell, offensive tackle

c-Donnie Shell, safety

Will Shields, guard

Don Shula, coach

O.J. Simpson, running back

Mike Singletary, linebacker

c-Duke Slater, tackle

Jackie Slater, offensive tackle

Bruce Smith, defensive end

Emmitt Smith, running back

Jackie Smith, tight end

c-Mac Speedie, end

c-Ed Sprinkle, defensive end/linebacker/end

Ken Stabler, quarterback

John Stallworth, wide receiver

x-Dick Stanfel, guard

Bart Starr, quarterback

Roger Staubach, quarterback

Ernie Stautner, defensive tackle

Jan Stenerud, placekicker

Dwight Stephenson, center

Michael Strahan, defensive end

x-Hank Stram, coach

Ken Strong, halfback

Joe Stydahar, tackle

Lynn Swann, wide receiver

c-Paul Tagliabue, commissioner

Fran Tarkenton, quarterback

Charley Taylor, running back-wide receiver

Jason Taylor, defensive end

Jim Taylor, fullback

Lawrence Taylor, linebacker

Derrick Thomas, linebacker

x-Emmitt Thomas, cornerback

Thurman Thomas, running back

Jim Thorpe, halfback

x-Mick Tingelhoff, center

Andre Tippett, linebacker

Y.A. Tittle, quarterback

LaDainian Tomlinson, running back

George Trafton, center

Charley Trippi, halfback-quarterback

Emlen Tunnell, safety

Clyde "Bulldog" Turner, center

Johnny Unitas, quarterback

Gene Upshaw, guard

Brian Urlacher, linebacker

Norm Van Brocklin, quarterback

Steve Van Buren, halfback

x-Doak Walker, halfback

Bill Walsh, coach

Paul Warfield, wide receiver

Kurt Warner, quarterback

Bob Waterfield, quarterback

Mike Webster, center

Roger Wehrli, defensive back

x-Arnie Weinmeister, defensive tackle

Randy White, defensive tackle

Reggie White, defensive end

x-Dave Wilcox, linebacker

Aeneas Williams, defensive back

x-Bill Willis, guard

Ralph Wilson, founder/team owner

Larry Wilson, safety

Kellen Winslow, tight end

Alex Wojciechowicz, center

Ron Wolf, contributor

Willie Wood, safety

Rod Woodson, cornerback/safety

x-Rayfield Wright, offensive tackle

Ron Yary, offensive tackle

c-George Young, contributor/general manager

Steve Young, quarterback

Jack Youngblood, defensive end

Gary Zimmerman, tackle

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