In first year of eligibility, Troy Polamalu, Reggie Wayne, Patrick Willis among Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists

Shalise Manza YoungYahoo Sports Contributor

In recognition and celebration of the NFL’s 100th season, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2020 induction class will be 20 members. But while 10 of those will be senior candidates — men who have been retired for at least 25 years — the number of modern-era candidates inducted will be five, as it usually is.

On Tuesday, the Hall unveiled the 25 modern-era players who are semifinalists for 2020, and to pick just five of these 25 is an incredibly difficult task.

Polamalu, Wayne, Willis make the cut in first year

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Three players who are in their first year of Hall eligibility are semifinalists: Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis.

Patrick Willis, shown here in 2014, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020. (AP/Matt Slocum)
Patrick Willis, shown here in 2014, is a semifinalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020. (AP/Matt Slocum)

Because he retired after eight NFL seasons, when he was just 30 years old, if Willis were to be elected this year he would be the third-youngest inductee ever: Gale Sayers was only 34 when he was enshrined, and Jim Brown was 35. Willis will turn 35 in January, so he’d be a few weeks older than Brown, whose birthday is in February, was at the time of his induction.

Willis was a Pro Bowler in seven of his eight seasons and a first-team All-Pro five times.

Polamalu played for 12 seasons and was a Pro Bowler eight times, a first-team All-Pro four times, and the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, one of the few safeties who can say they won that honor.

Wayne played for 14 seasons; he was a Pro Bowler six times and first-team All-Pro once.

Other first-time semifinalists

There are several others who, while not in their first year of eligibility, have made it to the semifinal round for the first time: linebacker Carl Banks, running backs Fred Taylor and Ricky Watters, and defensive tackle Bryant Young.

The full list of semifinalists:

  • Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets

  • Carl Banks, LB – 1984-1992 New York Giants, 1993 Washington Redskins, 1994-95 Cleveland Browns

  • Ronde Barber, CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans

  • Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers

  • LeRoy Butler, S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)

  • Alan Faneca, G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals

  • Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Steve Hutchinson, G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans

  • Edgerrin James, RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks 

  • John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos

  • Clay Matthews, LB – 1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons

  • Sam Mills, LB – 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers

  • Troy Polamalu, S – 2003-2014 Pittsburgh Steelers 

  • Simeon Rice, DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts

  • Richard Seymour, DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders

  • Steve Tasker, ST/WR – 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills

  • Fred Taylor, RB – 1998-2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009-2010 New England Patriots

  • Zach Thomas, LB – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys

  • Hines Ward, WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Ricky Watters, RB – 1992-94 San Francisco 49ers, 1995-97 Philadelphia Eagles, 1998-2001 Seattle Seahawks

  • Reggie Wayne, WR – 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts

  • Patrick Willis, LB – 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers

  • Darren Woodson, S – 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys

  • Bryant Young, DT – 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers

Finalists chosen in January

The 48-member Hall of Fame selection committee will next vote to narrow the field to 15 finalists; that announcement will come on January 2, 2020. On February 1, the day before Super Bowl LIV in Miami, the committee will gather for presentations on all finalists and two rounds of voting to get to the final five who will be inducted next August.

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