Gaining induction into the College Football Hall of Fame is a mathematical feat, considering that just .0002 percent of all those who have played the game in the last 145 years have been elected.
Wednesday, 12 FBS more players defied those odds, with the announcement of the 2014 class, headlined by the posthumous election of former Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas.
Thomas is joined by Tony Boselli (USC), Dre Bly (North Carolina), Dave Butz (Purdue), Shane Conlan (Penn State), Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech), Darrin Nelson (Stanford), Willie Roaf (Louisiana Lafayette), John Sciarra (UCLA), Sterling Sharpe (South Carolina), LaDanian Tomlinson (TCU) and Wesley Walls (Ole Miss).
"I shed a couple tears, because I thought about not being recruited very highly and not very many schools offering me a scholarship," said Tomlinson, the 2000 Doak Walker Award winner. "But being here and getting the news that I was going into the College Football Hall of Fame was an emotional time."
Coaches Mike Bellotti (Oregon, Chico State) and Jerry Moore (Appalachian State, Texas Tech, North Texas) and FCS players John Huard (Maine) and Leonard Smith (McNeese State) were also elected.
Sharing the class with Thomas wasn’t lost on Tomlinson. Despite never playing against the former Chief in the NFL, Tomlinson got to know Thomas’ mother, who would feed the visiting team after the game when they came to Kansas City.
"I just remember hugging his mom and talking to her from time to time," Tomlinson said. "They carried on a certain tradition there, the Thomas family and they should be proud. Derrick Thomas was such a great athlete, but also a great human being."
There had been a growing support for Thomas, whose name was appearing on the ballot for the fourth year.
Thomas, who died at age 33 in 2000 following an automobile accident that left him paralyzed, starred in Tuscaloosa from 1985-88, winning the Butkus Award in 1988 after racking up a school-record 27 sacks. He was a first-team All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
He had already been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
While Thomas’ name was finally called, there were a number of notable omissions this, including former Oklahoma All-American LB Brian Bosworth, who has been on the ballot six times; Kentucky’s Tim Couch, a holder of seven NCAA records when he left school; Notre Dame’s Raghib Ismail; Iowa State’s Troy Davis, one of only three players to win back-to-back rushing titles and Miami’s Warren Sapp, a Nagurski and Lombardi awards winner.
But most stunning were the absences of three Heisman Trophy winners up for induction in Eric Crouch (Nebraska), Rashaan Salaam (Colorado) and Ricky Williams (Texas).
While the class may have missed those award winners, it does boast Bly, a three-time All-American, Hamilton, who was second to Ron Dayne in the 1999 Heisman race, Tomlinson (fourth in 2000) a two-time national rushing champ and Boselli, an Outland Trophy finalist in ’94.
"Joe Hamilton and Dre’ Bly join a long list of ACC players and coaches in the College Football Hall of Fame, and we are extremely proud of these members," said ACC commissioner John Swofford.
"Joe Hamilton was one of the great quarterbacks in this league, and he was a joy to watch play. Dre’ Bly was one of the elite defensive backs in the ACC and college football who led the nation in interceptions as a freshman. Both players are woven into the history and tradition of ACC Football, and we are pleased that they are being recognized by the National Football Foundation."
The new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will open its doors later this year, with the 2014 class to be inducted on Dec. 9 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.