Randy Gradishar and Steve McMichael, key members from dominant defenses in the 1970s and ’80s, and game-breaking AFL receiver Art Powell are finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2023.
Gradishar, McMichael and Powell were announced Wednesday as the three senior candidates for next year’s Hall of Fame class from a list of 12 semifinalists. They will get into the Hall if they are supported by at least 80% of voters next January.
Gradishar was a key part to Denver’s “Orange Crush” defense in the 1970s, making the Pro Bowl seven times in 10 seasons, being selected as an All-Pro in 1977 and ’78 and winning Defensive Player of the Year in 1978.
A tackling machine at inside linebacker, Gradishar also intercepted 20 passes and recovered 13 fumbles in a 10-year career and never missed a single game. He was a modern era finalist for the Hall in 2003 and ‘08 but didn’t get elected.
While the Broncos fell one game short of winning it all in 1977 when they allowed only 10.6 points per game, McMichael was part of an even more dominant defense that won the Super Bowl in the 1985 season.
McMichael controlled the interior of the line on the Bears famed “46 defense” that is considered by many to be the best ever after leading Chicago to an 18-1 record and allowing only 10 points in three playoff wins.
McMichael joined Chicago in 1981 after being cut following his rookie season in New England. After two years as a reserve, he established himself as a star in 1983 in the Bears’ second season under coach Mike Ditka.
McMichael had 95 career sacks as a defensive tackle, was selected as an All-Pro in 1985 and ’87 and was second-teamer two other times.
While McMichael was often overshadowed by Hall of Famers Richard Dent and Mike Singletary, he was instrumental to the Bears’ success and was called by Ditka the toughest player he ever coached.
Powell was a prototypical AFL receiver with the combination of size and speed that made him one of the game’s most prolific deep threats and the perfect fit for then-Raiders coach Al Davis’ vertical offense.
He led the AFL with 1,130 yards receiving for the New York Titans in 1962 and then again the following year for the Raiders with 1,304 yards when he also had a league-leading 16 TD catches.
He was a first or second-team All-Pro in the AFL in six of his first seven seasons. His 81 touchdowns rank second best in AFL history behind Don Maynard, and his 8,015 yards receiving were third behind only Maynard and Hall of Famer Lance Alworth.
Powell was also outspoken on racial issues. He refused to play in an exhibition game in the segregated South for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 1960 and soon joined the New York Titans of the newly launched AFL.
He boycotted a preseason game for New York in 1961 on the same grounds and was set to do the same for the Raiders in 1963 before Davis refused to allow the Raiders to play in Alabama and moved the game to Oakland.
The committee considered nine other candidates: Ken Anderson, Maxie Baughan, Roger Craig, Joe Jacoby, Albert Lewis, Eddie Meador, Sterling Sharpe, Otis Taylor and Al Wistert.
Last week, a separate panel picked former Detroit Lions coach Buddy Parker as the finalist last week in the coach and contributor category.
The full selection committee could also vote in up to five modern era candidates from a pool still to be determined.
The Class of 2024 will be formally enshrined next summer in Canton, Ohio.
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