The Pro Football Hall of Fame has been open since 1963 but only one pure kicker had been enshrined in its first 50 years — Jan Stenerud.
But the Hall enshrined its first pure punter in 2014 when Ray Guy received his bust. Three years later, another specialist was welcomed to Canton — placekicker Morten Andersen, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer. Could more special teamers now be on the way? And that’s the subject of our weekly Talk of Fame Network poll – who will be the next special teamer enshrined in Canton? Here are your options:
Gary Anderson, K, 5 teams. The NFL’s second all-time scorer with 2,434 points. Anderson ranks second in NFL history in both games played (353) and field goals (538), retiring as the runnerup in both categories to Hall of Famer Morten Andersen. He was voted to both the 1980 and 1990 NFL all-decade teams. Anderson went to four Pro Bowls and was named to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time team.
Michael Bates, KR/ace, 8 teams. A bronze medalist at the 1992 Olympics in the 200 meters, Bates used his speed on the football field to block, cover and return kicks. He led the NFL in kickoff returns in both 1996 (30.2 yards) and 1997 (27.3 yards) and was voted to the 1990 NFL all-decade team. He also blocked three kicks in his career and set a Seattle record for special-teams tackles with 22 in 1992.
Jason Hanson, K, Detroit. The NFL’s fourth all-time leading scorer with 2,150 points, all for the Detroit Lions. Hanson played more games with one team (327) than any player in NFL history. He ranks fourth all-time with his 495 career field goals but second with 52 field goals of 50 yards or more. His 189 field goals from 40 yards or more is an NFL record, as are his 24 consecutive field goals of 40-plus yards.
Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, KR, 3 teams. The only kick returner named to the NFL’s 75th anniversary team – also the only member of that 75th anniversary team not enshrined in Canton. White Shoes also was voted to the 1970 and 1980 NFL all-decade teams. He returned 123 career kickoffs for 2,941 yards and two touchdowns and 282 punts for 3,317 yards and six more scores.
Sean Landeta, P, 5 teams. The only punter in NFL history named to two all-decade teams – the 1980s and 1990s. In addition, Landeta was named the punter on the all-time USFL team. His 1,401 career punts rank second all-time for an average of 43.3 yards. His right leg helped the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars win two USFL titles and the New York Giants two Super Bowls. He was voted to eight Pro Bowls.
Brian Mitchell, KR, 3 teams. The NFL record holder for combined kick return yards with 19,013 — 4,000 more than anyone else. He returned 607 career kickoffs for 14,014 yards and four touchdowns and 463 punts for 4,999 yards and nine more scores. He averaged 10.8 yards in his career on punt returns and 23.1 yards on kickoffs. He won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins.
Steve Tasker, ace, Houston-Buffalo. A seven-time Pro Bowler with close to 300 career tackles on special teams. Tasker also blocked seven kicks, including one in a Super Bowl. He returned 44 kickoffs at the start of his career, averaging 20.3 yards, and returned 32 punts toward the end of his career, averaging 10.5 yards. Tasker is the only special-teams ace ever to win Pro Bowl MVP honors (1993).
Adam Vinatieri, K, New England-Indianapolis. Still active with the Colts, Vinatieri is in his 22nd NFL season and ranks third all-time with his 2,378 points. He also ranks third in career field goals (530) and sixth in career games (322). Vinatieri owns four Super Bowl rings (three from the Patriots, one from the Colts) and set an NFL record by converting 44 consecutive field goals. He was voted to the 2000 NFL all-decade team.