For football players, the ultimate honor is an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Every year, a select group of retired players, along with coaches and other contributors, are celebrated at the enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio. The 2019 class includes late Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and longtime Cowboys executive Gil Brandt, in addition to some of the top players from the past 25 years. Here’s a look at the most-worthy players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2019.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez
This first-ballot Hall of Famer is the best pass-catching tight end in NFL history. Tony Gonzalez spent the bulk of his 17-year career with the Chiefs before going to the Falcons for his final five seasons. His 1,325 receptions are the second-most all-time behind only Jerry Rice; he’s sixth with 15,127 receiving yards, and his 111 career receiving yards rank as the eighth-most in league history.
Gonzalez didn’t show much drop-off late in his career. He still caught 89 passes in his final season — at the age of 37. The legend made the Pro Bowl an incredible 14 times, and he is one of the league’s most prolific pass-catchers regardless of position. The one negative for Gonzalez: He lacks a Super Bowl title.
Cornerback Champ Bailey
Another defender who made it into the Hall on his first ballot, Champ Bailey spent the first five seasons of his career with the Redskins. Then, Washington sent him to the Broncos in a blockbuster trade involving RB Clinton Portis. Bailey had a 10-year run with the Broncos to close out his 15-year career.
He was one of the top cornerbacks of his generation, which caused a lot of quarterbacks to throw the ball where he wasn’t. This resulted in him only hauling in 52 interceptions in his career. Passes defended became an official stat in 1999 — Bailey’s rookie year — so his 203 passes defended are the most of any defender. Like Gonzalez, Bailey never won a Super Bowl ring.
Safety Ed Reed
Like Gonzalez, Ed Reed was inducted in his first year on the ballot. The 12-year veteran spent his first 11 seasons with the Ravens, then played for both the Texans and Jets in his final season. Reed is the all-time leader in interception return yardage, with 1,590 yards.
Those yards came off of 64 career interceptions, seven of which he took for the distance and six points. His interception total is the seventh-most in league history, while he is 11th on the career list in pick-sixes. Reed won one Super Bowl during his time on the Ravens.
Cornerback Ty Law
Ty Law was the Patriots’ first-round selection in the 1995 NFL Draft, and he spent the first decade of his NFL career in New England. Then, his final five seasons went to the Jets, Chiefs, and Broncos.
The last few years of Law’s tenure with the Patriots coincided with the beginning of quarterback Tom Brady’s time with the team. Law won three Super Bowls in his career. In terms of statistics, he ties with Reed for 11th on the all-time pick-six list with seven such plays. He also had 53 total interceptions and 838 career tackles.
Center Kevin Mawae
With 16 total NFL seasons, Kevin Mawae spent half of the time with the Jets, sandwiched between four-year stints with the Seahawks and Titans. The eight-time Pro Bowler started 112 straight games from 1998 to 2004.
A durable player, Mawae made 238 starts overall, which puts him 21st on the all-time list. He was also disciplined, getting called for just six false-start penalties in his 16 seasons. Mawae is another player who had a long and productive career but never had the chance to play in a Super Bowl.