Three-time All-Pros Julius Peppers and Antonio Gates headline the list of nine first-year eligible players picked among the 273 nominees for the 2024 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The other first-year eligibles are receivers Brandon Marshall and Jordy Nelson; running back Jamaal Charles; offensive linemen T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Max Unger; and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
The nine new candidates combined for 42 Pro Bowl berths, 12 first-team All-Pro selections, with five of the nine winning Super Bowls and Peppers and Gates making all-decade teams. Peppers also won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 2002 and Nelson was picked as Comeback Player of the Year in 2016.
Peppers and Gates were both college basketball players before finding their greatest success in football.
Peppers was one of the league’s most dominant linemen after being picked second overall by Carolina in 2002 following a two-sport career in college at North Carolina.
He had 12 sacks as a rookie and never really slowed down in a 17-year career that included stops in Chicago and Green Bay before ending with the Panthers. He was an All-Pro in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
Peppers finished his career with 159 1/2 sacks — the fourth most since they became official in 1982 — and had 10 seasons with double-digit sacks. Only Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (13) and Reggie White (12) had more.
Gates only played basketball in college before turning into one of the NFL’s top tight ends ever when he switched to football as a pro after going undrafted.
The Chargers took a chance on him and it paid off in a big way as he became an All-Pro in just his second season in 2004. He was All-Pro again the next two seasons and went on to have a 16-year career for the team.
Gates finished with 955 catches for 11,841 yards and an NFL record for tight ends 116 touchdown receptions. Only Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten have more catches or yards as a tight end.
The list will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November and to 15 finalists in January before the selection committee discusses and chooses the class of 2023 that will be enshrined in August.
The 15 finalists will be trimmed to 10 and then five during the selection meeting early next year. The final five candidates will need to get 80% of the votes from the panel to get into the Hall.
The roster of nominees consists of 67 offensive players, 50 defensive players and 12 special teamers.
Finalists from 2022 re-nominated for next year are Devin Hester, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Willie Anderson, Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Patrick Willis and Darren Woodson.
They also will get in if they get support from at least 80% of voters.