INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Edgerrin James’ relentless pursuit of inclusion in the Pro Football Hall of Fame cleared its latest hurdle.
The Indianapolis Colts’ all-time leading rusher and one of the most prolific running backs in NFL history is one of 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2019.
It marks the fifth straight year James has reached the semifinal stage. He’s advanced to the Final 15 twice, including last February.
Tony Dungy always has endorsed James’ worthiness.
“To me he was the most complete guy in that era in terms of being able to run inside, run outside, make big runs, catch the football, block,’’ said Dungy, who joined Marvin Harrison as members of the Class of 2016. “He was the best pass-protecting back in football during his time.
“He was complete, played three downs. Wasn’t a third-down back or a first- and second-down back. Could do everything you could ask for and did it for a long career.’’
James became a cornerstone of the Colts’ high-powered offense when the team selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 1999 draft. During his seven-year stint in Indy, he set franchise records for rushing yards in a career (9,226), a season (1,709) and a game (219). He was a first-team selection for the NFL’s All Decade Team of the 2000s, won league rushing titles in his first two seasons and was selected to four Pro Bowls.
On a larger scale, James would play for 11 seasons – three with Arizona and one with Seattle – before retiring after 2009. He ranks 13th in NFL history with 12,246 yards and 15th with 15,610 total yards from scrimmage.
Of the 12 running backs ahead of James on the all-time rushing list, 10 already have bronze busts in Canton. The exceptions still are active: Frank Gore (No. 4) and Adrian Peterson (No. 9).
The list of 25 semifinalists will be trimmed to the 15 Modern-era Finalists Jan. 3. That group will be joined by two Contributor finalists – Pat Bowlen and Gil Brandt – and one Senior nominee – Johnny Robinson.
The Hall of Fame Selection Committee – I am a voting member – will convene Feb. 2 in Atlanta, site of Super Bowl LIII, to determine the Class of 2019.
A breakdown of the 25 semifinalists:
- Running back: Edgerrin James.
- Wide receiver: Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Hines Ward.
- Tight end: Tony Gonzalez.
- Offensive tackle: Tony Boselli.
- Guard: Steve Hutchinson, Alan Faneca.
- Guard/center: Kevin Mawae.
- Linebacker: Clay Matthews, Karl Mecklenburg, Sam Mills, Zach Thomas.
- Defensive line: Richard Seymour.
- Cornerback: Champ Bailey, Ronde Barber, Ty Law.
- Safety: Ed Reed, Steve Atwater, LeRoy Butler, John Lynch, Darren Woodson.
- Coach: Jimmy Johnson, Don Coryell, Tom Flores.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.