FLOWERY BRANCH – Two players who came to the Falcons as they finished out their careers, Devin Hester and Dwight Freeney, were named finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Hester, a dynamic punt returner/kickoff returner/wide receiver, made his name with the Bears from 2006-13. He played with the Falcons from 2014-15. He played his last season with the Ravens in 2015.
Freeney, one of the most dynamic pass rushers of his time, starred for the Colts form 2002-2012. He was a designated pass rusher for the Chargers (2013-2014), Cardinals (2015), Falcons (2016), Seahawks and Lions (2017). He finished his career with 125.5 sacks.
Freeney played on the Falcons’ 2016 Super Bowl team and helped defensive line coach Bryan Cox coax 15.5 sacks out of former first-round pick Vic Beasley. Freeney played in 15 regular-season games and made a start. He had three sacks.
Freeney played in all three playoff games and started in the NFC championship game and Super Bowl LI. He had a sack in the Falcons’ Super Bowl loss.
Freeney, offensive tackle Joe Thomas and cornerback Darrelle Revis are finalists in their first year of eligibility. Defensive backs Darren Woodson and Albert Lewis were named finalists for the first time.
The remaining candidates were finalists for the Class of 2022.
Defensive end Jared Allen, offensive tackle Willie Anderson, defensive back Ronde Barber, wide receiver Torry Holt, wide receiver Andre Johnson, linebacker Zach Thomas, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and linebacker Patrick Willis.
The modern-era candidates will be considered when the Hall of Fame’s selection committee meets virtually prior to Super Bowl LVII. The class of 2023 will be unveiled publicly Feb. 9.
The selection committee may elect up to five modern-era players for the class of 2023.
Four others — seniors category finalists Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley along with coach/contributor/finalish Don Coryell – also are candidates for the class of 2023.
The finalists in the modern-era player category were determined by a vote of the Hall’s selection committee from the list of 129 nominees named in September that was reduced to 28 semifinalists on Nov. 22.
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