Peyton Manning gives a thumbs up to the left of his bust at the Class of 2021 Enshrinement at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio., on Sunday, Aug. 8, 2021.

Hpt 2021 Class Enshrinement Hof 23

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Peyton Manning highlights Class of ’21 at Hall of Fame ceremonies

One day after 20 new members, the five-person Class of 2020 and 15 from the Centennial class, were enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, eight new inductees celebrated their inductions Sunday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Five-time league Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning headlined the Class of 2021 as part of the five-member modern-era group of former players, along with Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Alan Faneca and John Lynch.

The other whose Hall of Fame busts were unveiled Sunday were senior inductee Drew Pearson, former coach Tom Flores and contributor and longtime scout Bill Nunn.

The Hall of Fame capped a busy weekend of celebration that included the annual Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday. The NFL preseason and 2020 induction ceremonies were canceled last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biggest no-brainer among the group was Manning, who earned 14 Pro Bowl selections (tied for most in NFL history) and seven AP first-team All-Pro nods, tied for the most among quarterbacks, as well as more MVP awards than any other player. The two-time NFL champion was the first starting quarterback in NFL history to win Super Bowls with two different franchises, Indianapolis in 2006 and Denver in his final season, 2015.

Manning’s close friend and perennial rival Tom Brady was in attendance, teeing up Manning to quip, “By the time Tom Brady is inducted in the first year of his eligibility in the year 2035, he’ll only have time to post his acceptance speech on his Instagram account,” referencing the Hall’s requested speech guidelines of eight minutes per person this weekend.

Pearson, who had endured a 33-year wait until finally being voted to football’s most celebrated shrine, was the first to speak, although he ignored any restrictions and talked for more than 11 minutes.

A Cowboys star wideout for all 11 seasons of his career (1973-83), the three-time All-Pro retired as the team’s all-time leader in catches and receiving yards. He was also famous for the first play referred to as a “Hail Mary,” a game-winning touchdown scored in the 1975 playoffs at Minnesota.

Flores was next to the Hall of Fame stage. After 10 seasons as a quarterback in the AFL, Flores became the NFL’s second Hispanic head coach and first ever to win the Super Bowl in 1980 with the Oakland Raiders. He would lead the Raiders to another title three years later while they were playing in Los Angeles, and still owns the league’s second-best playoff mark at 8-3 (.727) — behind only Vince Lombardi.

Lynch, currently the San Francisco 49ers general manager, was one of five players whose primary position was safety to be inducted over the weekend. He earned nine Pro Bowl berths in his 15 seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1993-2003) and Denver (2004-2007).

Johnson, a former Detroit Lions receiver who retired after the 2015 season at age 30 after nine NFL seasons, earned induction as the second-youngest Hall of Famer voted in on his first ballot — behind only Gale Sayers. Johnson led the NFL twice in receiving yardage and still owns the single-season mark of 1,964 yards in 2012.

Faneca starred at guard for 13 seasons with three teams, the Steelers (1998-2007), the New York Jets (2008-2009) and Arizona Cardinals (2010). He earned nine Pro Bowl nods and was a six-time All-Pro first-teamer.

A Heisman Trophy winner at Michigan in 1997, Woodson played a remarkable 18 seasons and made nine Pro Bowl squads. His 65 career interceptions are tied for fifth on the all-time list, and his 13 defensive touchdowns are tied for the NFL record. He also is one of just three players ever with 25 or more picks with two different franchises, the Raiders (1998-2005, ’13-15) and Green Bay Packers (2006-2012).

Nunn, who died in 2016, spent 47 seasons with the Steelers and helped lead the team to draft several Hall of Famers en route to four Super Bowl wins in the 1970s. He is credited as among the first to start scouting historically black colleges, and the franchise benefitted greatly with stalwarts such as John Stallworth, Mel Blount and Donnie Shell.

The Class of 2020 that was honored Saturday included safety Steve Atwater, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Edgerrin James and safety Troy Polamalu. The Centennial group included two head coaches — Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson — along with three elected as contributors (Steve Sabol, Paul Tagliabue and George Young) and 10 former players.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
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