Former San Francisco defensive tackle Bryant Young is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and fair enough. He’s only been eligible five years. But he’s never been a semifinalist for Canton, which means he’s never made the cut to 25 in any of those five years.
And that’s hard to fathom.
He was a four-time All-Pro, a four-time Pro Bowler, an all-decade choice and the 1999 Comeback Player of the Year after he returned from a career threatening leg injury. Furthermore, he’s an eight-time winner of the 49ers’ prestigious Len Eshmont award, given to the player who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of the former 49er, and I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, well, so what?
Well, so no other 49er won it more than twice. Not Joe Montana or Jerry Rice or Steve Young or Ronnie Lott or Hugh McElhenny. Nobody. But Bryant Young did. And he won it the last four years of his career.
I pushed his candidacy last week in our State Your Case segment. Then we had the reserved and gracious Young, now the defensive line coach for Atlanta, on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast and asked him to do what he doesn’t like to do — namely, speak up for himself and make a Hall-of-Fame case for his career.
He was reluctant … but he complied.
“The numbers over the year are definitely a huge consideration,” he said. “And the impact on the game and the organization. Also, ask the teammates — the guys I played with — the impact and the importance of the job I that I was able to do that helped them in a manner. Then, also, you poll and ask those that I played against … and what they thought … (of me) as a player.
“So, just in terms of playing the game and the intensity and being able to affect the game from start to finish … I think that’s something that you really have to take into consideration. And certainly your opponents … those are the ones that can tell you the most telling stories in terms of the type of player and what he brought to the game and how he affected the game.
“So, for me, I may not have gotten the number of Pro Bowls that I deserved … I think I may have been slighted at times because I am such a selfless person, and I’m not going to be the one to jump out at you at times … but certainly I think you have to give credit where credit is due — in terms of just the impact and the importance of how one has represented the league and the organization and the type of player that I was.”
Young does have the numbers. He had more tackles and tackles for losses than Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp, and he had only seven fewer career sacks (96.5-89.5). Like Sapp, he starred on a Super Bowl winner, but, unlike Sapp, he’s not in the Hall. Sapp went in as a first-ballot choice. But Young? He can’t even get into the room for discussion.
“It’s a bit baffling,” said Young, “when you look at the numbers and the span of my career it makes you wonder. And all the things that you consider in terms of character and representation of the game … and just the impact you make on the team and the organization. I think it deserves to be talked about.”