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Champ Bailey, Tony Gonzalez headline the Hall of Fame's 2019 class

Bailey (UGA legend) and Gonzalez (final five seasons with Falcons) were both first-ballot honorees for Canton enshrinement.

ATLANTA — This year's eight-man class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame includes three first-ballot honorees and one UGA football legend.

Tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Champ Bailey didn't wait long for their respective Hall call, with each player earning enshrinement for Canton in Year 1 of eligibility.

Offensive lineman Kevin Mawae and cornerback Ty Law had been waiting, in earnest, for a full decade. 

However, none of that matters now, as they will round out the recently retired crop of 2019 inductees.

The senior committee selection of Johnny Robinson also made the final cut.

On the 'contributor' side, longtime Broncos owner Pat Bowlen (controlled the team from 1984-2014) will garner Hall induction come August. The same holds true for Gil Brandt, who may be the most famous scout in NFL history.

Bottom line: You can't write the story of the NFL ... without discussing Brandt's contributions with media, the combine, scouting and how organizations are run today.

Gonzalez, who played his final five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, boasts the most receptions (1,325), receiving yards (15,127) and receiving touchdowns (111) of any tight end in NFL history.

In terms of consistency, Gonzalez also amassed 800 receiving yards for 14 of his 17 NFL seasons (1997-2013).

On the short list of the NFL's greatest safeties, Reed led the league in interceptions three separate times (2004, 2008, 2010).

In fact, during the 2004 campaign, the five-time All-Pro and 12-time Pro Bowler notched 358 return yards off picks. That would be a decent season for some fourth-string wide receivers.

In 2012, Reed capped his brilliant time with Baltimore by helping the Ravens claim their second Lombardi Trophy.


Bailey (1999-2013 with Redskins, Broncos) was the sentimental choice of the Hall finalists, given his Georgia upbringing (Folkston) and star turn with UGA football. 

There's also a dynamic component to Bailey's induction, given his three All-Pro berths and 12 Pro Bowl appearances. Incredibly, the Redskins traded Bailey in his prime after the 2003 seasons, executing a one-for-one swap with the Broncos. 

Clinton Portis had a solid career with Washington after the trade, but his production or sustainability couldn't rival that of Bailey, a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team (2000s).

Ty Law's Hall of Fame resume hits the mark on multiple fronts: Two-time All-Pro, five Pro Bowls and three championships with the dynastic Patriots of 2001-04.

Law led the NFL in interceptions twice and was a true monster with 'pass deflections,' including a league-high 23 in 2003.


Full disclosure: I've been pounding the table about Edgerrin James's Hall of Fame candidacy since his eligibility kicked in. 

James ranks 13th in all-time rushing yards and accounted for 433 catches, 3,364 yards and 11 touchdown receptions. 

Here's something else to lament: James and Eric Dickerson are the only tailbacks in NFL history to collect 2,000 scrimmage yards in their first two seasons; and when charting Edge's first eight fully healthy campaigns, the annual average shakes out to 1,751 yards. 

Simply put, James was Le'Veon Bell ... before Le'Veon Bell.

Maybe next year, though.

Longtime Rams wideout Isaac Bruce ranks fifth in all-time receiving yards (15,208) and 14th in total receptions (1,024). He checks all the boxes with consistency, as well, racking up eight seasons of 1,000 yards receiving and eight campaigns of six-plus touchdowns. 

Strange but true: Bruce played on perhaps the best offense of the late 90s/early 200s and scored the title-clinching touchdown in Super Bowl XXXIV ... and yet, he has yet to secure a gold jacket.

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