Pro Football Hall of Fame Class 2023

By Rockin’ Reese

August…the month that usually signifies the “dog days of summer”, playoff chases heating up in baseball, & the return of football in the United States. When the NFL preseason begins, a great event usually happens around that time. Some of pro football’s great & unsung heroes receive an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This year, we celebrate the class of 2023…Joe Thomas, Joe Klecko, Darrelle Revis, DeMarcus Ware, Ronde Barber, Chuck Howley, Zach Thomas, Ken Riley, & Don Coryell.

Pro Football Hall of Fame: Class of 2023

Once known as the NFL’s “iron man”, Joe Thomas played 10,363 consecutive snaps as an offensive tackle for the Cleveland Browns. This record started from September 9, 2007 (week 1 of his rookie season) through October 22, 2017, when he injured his left triceps, while guarding (Tennessee Titans linebacker) Brian Orakpo. Sadly, this would be his final game in the NFL, as he would retire on March 14, 2018. Prior to his injury, Thomas was a Pro Bowl selection, every year. He was also a first-team or second-team All-Pro from 2008 to 2015.

Despite never competing in a NFL playoff game, the #3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft would go on to achieve some historic success. In 2011, he would be the first offensive lineman, since Richmond Webb of the Miami Dolphins to be named to a Pro Bowl in his first 5 seasons (Webb was named from 1990-1996). He also became the first Browns player since (Hall of Fame running back) Leroy Kelly .

In 2013, he would join (Chicago Bears linebacker) Dick Butkus, (PIttsburgh Steelers defensive tackle) “Mean” Joe Greene, (Steelers running back) Franco Harris, (Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle) Merlin Olsen, (Dallas Cowboys cornerback) Mel Renfro, (Detroit Lions running back) Barry Sanders, (New York Giants linebacker) Lawrence Taylor, & (Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman) Derrick Thomas among the list of players who were in the Pro Bowl in their first 7 seasons.

Like Thomas will be this year, these men all became inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2014, he would become the only offensive lineman in NFL history to be named as a Pro Bowl selection in his first 8 seasons.  In 2015, he would join (Hall of Fame running back) Jim Brown as the only Browns player to be selected for the Pro Bowl in their first 9 seasons (Brown actually retired, after his 9th season).

pro football hall of fame

Joe Klecko was a defensive lineman for the New York Jets for 11 seasons (1977-78 to 1987-88), before playing a 12th & final season with the Indianapolis Colts. Though he was a 6th round draft pick in 1977, Klecko would play a key role as a member of the “New York Sack Exchange”. In 1981, he was named Defensive Player of the Year, especially thanks to his 20 1/2 sacks…which led the NFL, that season.

Klecko would be selected for 4 Pro Bowls between 1981-1985 (a knee injury caused him to miss 1982). He was a 3-time first-team or second-team All-Pro selection in 1981, 1983, & 1985. Unfortunately, knee issues would ultimately send him from the Jets to the Colts, then into retirement.

Darrelle Revis was one of the most feared cornerbacks in NFL history. When the #14 overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft started to soar with Jets, his ability to shutdown opposing teams’ best wide receiver & intercept quarterbacks made many teams want to avoid a trip to Revis Island. In his first 3 seasons, Revis had 14 interceptions (2 of them returned for touchdowns). After having no interceptions in 2010, he quickly re-established himself, although his disinterest about staying in New York was growing.

He moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013. However, despite a Pro Bowl year, Revis would only be a Buc for that season. In 2014, he would join the New England Patriots, where he would have another Pro Bowl-worthy season. However, the Patriots had another “Bowl” in mind…Super Bowl 49, where they defeated (the defending Super Bowl Champion) Seattle Seahawks to capture their 4th Lombardi Trophy. After Revis won his only championship, he would return to the Jets for 2 more seasons, before retiring with the Chiefs. The 7-time Pro Bowl player & 4-time first-team All Pro will bring his Pro Football Hall of Fame bust to Revis Island.

DeMarcus Ware was the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. As a defensive linemen for the Cowboys, he would earn 7 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (2006-2012). In that same time frame, he would be either a first-team or second-team all pro. In 2008 & 2010, he led the league in sacks. In 2013 (his final season in Dallas), Ware would surpass (Super Bowl 12 co-MVP) Harvey Martin as the all-time sack leader for the Cowboys.

In 2014, he would join the Denver Broncos & have a Pro Bowl year. He would do the same the following year, but the Broncos would focus on another “Bowl”…specifically, Super Bowl 50, where the defeated the Carolina Panthers to win their 3rd Lombardi Trophy. Ware would suffer an ulna fracture near the elbow in week 2 of the 2016 season, then have season-ending back surgery in December. Ware announced his retirement in March 2017, but would sign an 1-day contract with the Cowboys, so he could retire with them in April. Before entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame just days after his 41st birthday, Ware would receive one final honor…becoming a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.

Ronde Barber is 7 minutes older than twin brother Tiki, but in 1997, he was chosen 30 picks after his younger twin (Tiki was chosen in round 2; Ronde was chosen in round 3). As a cornerback for the Buccaneers, Barber became a prolific superstar in Tampa’s secondary. In 2001, he had a breakout year, as he (along with Browns cornerback Anthony Henry) led the league with interceptions with 10.

This would lead Barber to the first of his 5 career Pro Bowl selections. The next year, he would have an impact on the NFC Championship game. He would force a fumble from (Philadelphia Eagles quarterback) Donovan McNabb, then return an interception for a touchdown that sealed the victory for the Buccaneers, who would ultimately win Super Bowl 37. From 2001 to 2006, he would be a first-team or second-team All-Pro (he wasn’t chosen in 2003). Like Ware, Barber was an member of the 2000s All-Decade Team. With 47 interceptions (8 of them returned for touchdowns) & 12 fumble recoveries (4 of them returned for touchdowns), it’s clear why Barber is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Chuck Howley was the 7th overall pick in the 1958 NFL Draft. His time with the Bears was brief, as a knee injury before his sophomore year nearly drove him into premature retirement. After playing in an alumni game for the West Virginia Mountaineers, Howley returned to the NFL in 1961, but this time…as part of the Cowboys. In the mid-1960s, the linebacker really came into his own.

He made 6 Pro Bowls from 1965-1971, missing the 1970 season. Also from 1966-1970, he was a first-team All-Pro, with a second-team All-Pro honor given to him in 1971. Howley holds an interesting place in NFL lore, as he is the only Super Bowl MVP that wasn’t on the championship team (Baltimore Colts won Super Bowl 5).  However, his Cowboys did win, the following year. Late in the 1972 season, Howley suffered another knee injury, after a crackback block by (Washington wide receiver) Charley Taylor. He would play only 1 game, before retiring in 1973.

Zach Thomas was a 5th round pick in 1996, but he played like a 1st round talent. The linebacker spent 12 seasons with the Dolphins, before spending a 13th & final season with the Cowboys. Thomas was proficient in tackling with over 1100 in his career, but he had his moments making plays on the ball, too.

He had 17 career interceptions (with 4 of them returned for touchdowns) & he also made 8 fumble recoveries. From 1999-2006, Thomas was named to 7 Pro Bowls (missing 2004).  From 1998-2006, he was named to either first-team or second-team All-Pro on 7 occasions. (He wasn’t named to either team in 2000 & 2004.) He led the league in sacks in 2002 & 2006. Thomas was named to the 2000s All-Decade Team.

Ken Riley was a 6th round pick in 1969. As a cornerback for the Cincinnati Bengals, though Riley only saw playoff success in the 1981 season, he left behind a legacy in the “Blue Chip City”. He was a second-team All-Pro in 1975 & 1976, when he had 2 of his best years. In 1975, he had a streak of 5 games with an interception.

The following year, he would follow that up with 9 interceptions. In 1983 (his final season), he would have 8 interceptions & receive his only first-team All-Pro honor. His 65 interceptions (5 of them returned for touchdowns) & 596 return yards are Bengals records. Unfortunately, Riley passed away from a heart attack in June 2020.

Don Coryell had coached in high school & college for 2 decades, before he started coaching in the NFL. He coached the St. Louis Cardinals for 5 years (1973-1977). In 1974, Coryell was named NFL Coach of the Year. He took the Cardinals to the playoffs twice (1974 & 1975), but they were one & done in both years. In 1978, Coryell became the coach of the San Diego Chargers. He had some early success with them, going to the playoffs from 1979-1982. After the 1986 season, Coryell would retire from coaching. Sadly, he passed away in July 2010.

Canton, OH, let’s get ready to welcome some new members. The 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame is glad to induct 9 new legends. 

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