Tony Dungy, the former Gophers quarterback and Vikings defensive coordinator who went on to become the first African American head coach to win the Super Bowl, took another step toward the Pro Football Hall of Fame by making this year’s list of 15 modern-era finalists in his first year of eligibility, the Hall of Fame announced on Thursday night.
Joining Dungy as first-year eligible finalists are two players he coached – Buccaneers 11-time Pro Bowl linebacker Derrick Brooks and Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, who ranks third in NFL history in receptions (1,102) and fifth in receiving touchdowns (128) – as well as Seahawks nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones. Another former player of Dungy's -- Buccaneers safety John Lynch -- also made the final 15.
"This would be something beyond belief," Dungy said on the NFL Network when asked what it feel like to enter the Hall of Fame alongside Brooks, Harrison and Lynch, who is in his second year of eligibility. "When we [got to Tampa Bay], we just talked about building a structure and getting a team that could win some games. I got to Indianapolis and saw Marvin Harrison operate. ... To see him practice and do what he does and be the focal point to the point where everybody was trying to stop him. We didn't put him in motion, we didn't move him around. We put him on the right side. You could triple cover him if you wanted to, and to catch 140 to 150 balls every year, it was just phenomenal. So I am looking forward to all three of these young men go into the Hall of Fame."
Also selected from the list of 25 modern-era semifinalists were: kicker Morten Andersen, running back Jerome Bettis, receiver Tim Brown, owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., linebacker Kevin Greene, defensive end Charles Haley, receiver Andre Reed, guard Will Shields, defensive end Michael Strahan and safety Aeneas Williams.
The group of finalists will be joined by two senior nominees, Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey, for consideration for the Class of 2014. The entire 46-member Selection Committee will meet on Feb. 1 in New York City to hold its annual selection meeting on the eve of the next day’s Super Bowl in New York. Between four and seven new Hall of Famers are chosen each year. No more than five modern era finalists can be chosen.
Dungy, 58, spent four years as a Gophers quarterback, but joined Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers dynasty as a safety from 1977 to 1978. He won a Super Bowl before moving on to the 49ers in 1979 and a brief stint with the Giants before being released before the 1980 season.
Dungy spent the 1980 season coaching defensive backs at the University of Minnesota before moving back to the NFL as Steelers defensive backs coach (1981 to ’83) and defensive coordinator (1984 to ’88). He went on to be Chiefs defensive backs coach from 1989 to ’91 and Vikings defensive coordinator from 1992 to ’95 before getting his first head coaching job.
In 13 seasons as an NFL head coach in Tampa Bay (1996 to 2001) and Indianapolis (2002 to ’08), Dungy’s only losing season was his first in Tampa Bay. He posted a 148-79 record (.652), including a 9-10 postseason mark that included a 29-17 win over the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Anderson played 25 seasons, finishing his career with the Vikings in 2004.