UM's Law, three first-ballot selections head Pro Football Hall of Fame class

Paul Domowitch
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News
New England Patriots cornerback Ty Law (24) is trailed by St. Louis Rams' Isaac Bruce (80) as he scores a touchdown during the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXVI.

Atlanta – Former Michigan Wolverine cornerback Ty Law was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night.

Three first-time-eligible players – tight end Tony Gonzalez, safety Ed Reed and cornerback Champ Bailey – head the Hall of Fame’s class of 2019.

Law and center Kevin Mawae both made it in their third year as finalists.

Like Brian Dawkins a year ago, Law, who played at Michigan from 1992-94, made the Hall of Fame on the same weekend his former team is playing in the Super Bowl.

“This is incredible,” Law said. “You couldn’t write a better script. It’s very surreal to be able to get this honor while my former team is playing in the Super Bowl.

“Hopefully, it’s the start of a special weekend. Hopefully, we can pull off the win and bring (Super Bowl) No. 6 back to New England.”

This year’s two contributor nominees, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and former Dallas Cowboys personnel boss Gil Brandt, and senior nominee Johnny Robinson, round out the eight-man class.

Gonzalez, who played 17 seasons and earned 14 Pro Bowl invitations, is the NFL’s all-time leader in catches (1,325) and receiving yards (15,127) by a tight end. The only player at any position with more receptions is Jerry Rice (1,549).

He played in 270 regular-season games, missing just one game his entire career.

Law is the first member of the Bill Belichick-era Patriots to make the Hall of Fame. He spent 10 of his 15 seasons with the Patriots and was a key member of Belichick’s first three Super Bowl winners, including the 2004 team that defeated the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX.

The Hall of Fame’s 48-member selection committee met for more than seven hours Saturday. After several hours of discussion, there were two reduction votes of the 15 modern-era finalists.

Three former players – safety John Lynch, defensive lineman Richard Seymour and wide receiver Isaac Bruce – and two former coaches – the late Don Coryell and Tom Flores – were eliminated on the 15-to-10 vote.

Lynch was a finalist for the sixth time. Coryell is a five-time finalist. Bruce is a three-time finalist.

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Five others – safety Steve Atwater, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, guards Alan Faneca, and Steve Hutchinson and running back Edgerrin James – were eliminated on the second reduction vote to five. It was the fourth straight year Faneca was a finalist, and the fourth straight year he’s come up short.

James (3), Boselli (3), Atwater (2) and Hutchinson (2) also are multi-year finalists.

Mawae is just the ninth center in the NFL’s modern era to be voted into the Hall of Fame. He played 16 years with three teams, including the first four with Seattle where he was coached by former Eagles offensive line coach Howard Mudd.

Mawae said he was pleasantly surprised to get the knock on his hotel room door Saturday from Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker.

“It being the third time (as a finalist), in my heart, I was thinking I’m not going to make it,” Mawae said. “I had a pit in my stomach. It caught me off guard when David knocked on the door and told me I made it.

“I think I had a higher vertical than when I tested before the draft. It was overwhelming.”

The 85-year-old Brandt, who was the Cowboys’ chief scout for the first 28 years of their existence, will be joining the Cowboys’ former coach, Tom Landry, and former general manager, Tex Schramm, in Canton.

“When we started out, we were very, very bad,” Brandt said. “I’m not sure we thought we’d still be around for 2-3 years. But we were and had a lot of success.”

Gonzalez, who spent the last five years of his career with the Atlanta Falcons after playing 12 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, was thrilled to get voted into the Hall of Fame with the Super Bowl in Atlanta.

“When I retired and realized the Super Bowl was going to be in Atlanta the first year I was going to be eligible, I thought, ‘Man, how great would that be?’ “ he said.

“And then when Kansas City made it to the AFC championship game and had a chance to be here, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God. Kansas City in Atlanta and I might be going into the Hall of Fame.’

“I couldn’t pick a better place to have this happen.”