This weekend, one of the greatest linebackers to ever lace up a pair of cleats will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ray Lewis who spent most of his formative years in Florida at playing football at Kathleen High School in Lakeland, Florida, will officially receive his gold jacket and bust before giving his acceptance speech shortly afterward.
Lewis’ induction was a mere formality; many projected the former Ravens’ linebacker facing resistance on the road to being a first-ballot Hall of Fame member — he’s a two-time Super Bowl champ, Super Bowl XXXV (35) MVP, seven-time First Team All-Pro and two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003). The legendary linebacker already has a spot in UM’s Sports Hall of Fame since he was inducted in 2006. Lewis is currently a nominee for the College Football Hall of Fame’s 2019 class as well. The one-time Jack Harding Award winner joins Ted Hendricks, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Jim Kelly, Cortez Kennedy and Jim Otto as Pro Football Hall of Fame members who attended The U.
The weekend belongs to ‘ol Ray Ray and his 2018 class. We at the State of the U can’t help but look ahead to some other Canes’ legends who deserve to have their likenesses on display in the corridors of the ultimate shrine for the football gods. Among the group, there’s a slam dunk first-ballot, a couple of impressive wideouts and the best return man in football history.
*Note* A player or coach must have been retired at least five years before they can be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Future Pro Football Hall of Fame Canes
(Eligible for the 2019 PFHOF Ballot)
Making it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame is no easy feat. For Ed Reed, who developed leadership by example while attending the University of Miami, the safety’s nomination should be the easiest return in the opposite direction in his career. Aside from holding the Hurricane record for career interceptions (21), career interception yards (389 yards) and most career interceptions returned for a touchdown (4), the St. Rose, Louisiana, native was a two-time All-American (2000 and 2001) and was an integral part of the best team in college football as a member of the 2001 national championship winning team.
Reed parlayed a great collegiate career into an even better pro career. A NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2004), five-time First Team All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLVII Champion, Reed’s resume more than holds its own in comparison to other safeties in the hall. According to NFL Network analyst Elliot Harrison, there have only been two DBs in NFL history to lead the league in interceptions in three different seasons. Reed is the only safety in league history to accomplish the feat. Reed enjoyed a prolific career, spending 10 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens after being drafted as the 24th overall selection in 2002.
Earlier this year, Reed was announced as a member of the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame.
You may remember Jonathan Vilma for captaining UM’s great 2001 national championship team as a middle linebacker. Today, you may see him impart wisdom on the college football world as an ESPN analyst. Vilma will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. After being named an All-American multiple times in college and winning numerous academic achievements, as well as being named a member of the Iron Arrow, the Coral Gables High grad declared his intention to go pro. Vilma was one of a draft record six Hurricanes to be selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft when he was selected 12th by the New York Jets.
Vilma burst onto the scene, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004. Vilma became the face of the gang green defense until he was traded to the New Orleans, where he continued to assert his will as a Saint. Vilma and the Saints would win Super Bowl XLVI, adding a Super Bowl ring to a personal trophy case that holds a national championship ring and a plethora of individual accolades. Vilma finished his career with 612 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and three defensive touchdowns.
One of the feature backs for RBU, Willis McGahee was projected to be a star in the NFL while he was still carrying the rock for the Canes. The former Miami Central High standout would rush for 2,067 yards and 31 touchdowns in a Hurricanes’ uniform. However, McGahee would suffer a horrific knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl that jeopardized his pro playing career, let alone his draft stock. Despite the injury, McGahee was selected 32nd overall in the 2003 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.
Over the span of his 10 seasons in the NFL, McGahee would go on to play for four different franchises: Buffalo, Baltimore, Denver, Cleveland. Willis rushed for 8,747 yards and 65 rushing touchdowns with 210 receptions for 1,339 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his career. Entering the 2018 season, McGahee has the 41st most rushing yards in league history, ahead of names such as Herschel Walker, Terrell Davis and Larry Csonka.
Still Looking To Get In
Edgerrin James — Semifinalist in the 2018 PFHOF ballot
Jimmy Johnson — Has not made it to the semi-final round since being eligible
Eligible in the Near Future
Reggie Wayne (Eligible for 2021 PFOF ballot)
Reed’s former roommate at the University of Miami, Reggie Wayne, still has a modest wait to go before he becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame ballot. A BIG EAST Freshman of the Year, Wayne showed off a level of consistency, production and reliability that he would carry throughout his entire career. Wayne was good for 40 receptions every season he was on campus.
That dependability led to the Indianapolis Colts taking Wayne with the 30th selection in the 2001 NFL Draft. Wayne continued to thrive at ‘Horseshoe U’. With WR Marvin Harrison lining up on the opposite side of the formation, and QB Peyton Manning dealing sweet science from the pocket, Wayne helped propel the Indy to offensive prosperity for the majority of his career. Wayne left the game with as a Super Bowl XLI champion, a six-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro (2010). With career numbers that read 1,070 receptions, 14,345 receiving yards and 82 touchdowns, the resume passes the look test — yet Wayne could be the victim of a log jam at receiver when it comes time to hear their name called.
Andre Johnson (Eligible for 2021 PFOF ballot)
The man known as ‘Dre’ — the one without the PHD — was a long-term fixture for a once-budding expansion franchise. As a Cane, Johnson was a specimen when he got serious burn on the offense in his upperclassmen years. Johnson ultimately would tie Reggie Wayne for third on UM’s career receiving touchdowns list with 20.
Johnson was the third overall selection in 2003 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans, who were still learning how to walk in the NFL, let alone compete. Not only did No. 80 become an integral member of the the Texans’ offense, he became a fixture in the Houston community. Johnson played most of his career for the Texans before brief stints with the Colts and Titans to close out a 13-year career in the NFL. Johnson’s career numbers of 1,062 receptions, 1,485 receiving yards and 70 touchdowns are impressive. Apologies to David Carr, Johnson was the first bonafide star for the Texans since pro football returned to the H-Town. A star for an expansion team that wasn’t competitive for a majority of his career, Johnson should be the first-ever inductee to enter the Hall with a Texan decal next to his name. The debate will be a fiery one in 2021 when Johnson gains HOF eligibility.
Vince Wilfork (Eligible for 2022 PFOF ballot)
Vince left the NFL as a five-time Pro Bowler, a two-time Super Bowl winner (2004 and 2014) and as a guy who earned a charcoal endorsement. The former nose tackle for the New England Patriots and Houston Texans is viewed as the prototype at his position for the majority of his career. Whether Big Vince gets serious votes when he does become eligible for the ballot remain to be seen. It should be a fascinating study to see if Wilfork, who worked at a position that doesn’t stuff the stat sheet compared to others on the defense, will be able to influence voters by being part of a championship caliber team for a significant portion of his career. Perhaps the BBQ connoisseur can provide some saucy bribes to help his chances.
Devin Hester (Eligible for 2022 PFOF ballot)
With 14 career punt return touchdowns and five kickoff return touchdowns in his career, Hester is viewed as one the G.O.A.T (greatest of all time) return men in the game. Working in his favor is the fact that Hester holds league records in kicks returned for a touchdown. Working against him, is the fact that there are just five members of the HOF that are designated as a specialist, with four of them being placekickers and one putner. As fans, we’ve witnessed Hester change the field plenty of times with sizzling returns for massive gains, or house calls. Now that he’s retired, the case for Hester to get in the hall will require him to flip opinions more so than field position.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!