Calvin Johnson, Charles Woodson among first-timers on Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 25 semifinalists for its 2021 class Tuesday, and former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Michigan legend Charles Woodson are two of the four first-year-eligible players to make the ballot.
Johnson, 35, who retired in 2016, dominated the NFL for nine seasons. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft, he played his entire career with the Lions, setting franchise records for receptions (731), receiving yards (11,619) and receiving touchdowns (83).
A six-time Pro Bowler and three-time, first-team All-Pro, Johnson also holds the NFL's single-season mark with 1,964 yards.
The only holes on his resume are longevity and team success. Johnson only played in two playoff games, and despite catching 17 passes for 296 and two touchdowns in those contests, the Lions fell short in both.
Woodson, 44, who played cornerback and safety with Oakland and Green Bay in his 18-year career, won a Super Bowl with the Packers, lost one with the Raiders, and made three All-Pro Teams. Woodson was the 1998 defensive rookie of the year, and took top defensive player honors in 2009. He also made the All-Decade Team of the 2000s. He won the Heisman Trophy at Michigan in 1997.
Both men are in the College Football Hall of Fame.
The other first-year-eligible players are quarterback Peyton Manning and defensive end Jared Allen. Joining them are four players who previously have been eligible, but never made the semifinals: Eric Allen, Willie Anderson, Cornelius Bennett and Rodney Harrison.
Manning, 44, is a record five-time league MVP and held several career passing records when he retired after 17 seasons; he missed 2011 with a severe neck problem. He played in three Super Bowls, winning two — one with the Colts and the other with Denver. He was a quarterback on the All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Allen, 38, had 136 sacks and twice led the league in his 12-year career for the Chiefs, Vikings, Bears and Panthers. He made four All-Pro Teams.
A player must be retired for five seasons before being considered for entry to the Canton, Ohio, shrine.
Johnson is one of five receivers remaining on this year's ballot, along with Torry Holt, Steve Tasker, Hines Ward and Reggie Wayne.
The group of 25 announced Tuesday also includes Ronde Barber, Tony Boselli, LeRoy Butler, Alan Faneca, John Lynch, Clay Matthews, Sam Mills, Richard Seymour, Fred Taylor, Zach Thomas, Patrick Willis, Darren Woodson and Bryant Young.
Also on the voting ballot in the coaching category is Tom Flores; in the contributors category is Bill Nunn; and in the seniors category is Drew Pearson.
The weekend of the Super Bowl, the 48-person selection committee will whittle the list down to five who will be enshrined. Johnson, who is expected to eventually make the Hall of Fame, is a long shot to get in on his first try, particularly with Woodson and Manning considered locks.
Of the 29 receivers previously selected to the Hall of Fame, only Jerry Rice and Randy Moss made it on their first year of eligibility.
Associated Press contributed