Former 49ers star Roger Craig, one of the most versatile running backs in football history, was announced Thursday as one of 20 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s special 2020 centennial class.
Craig’s eligibility as a modern-era candidate expired two years ago, which converted him to the seniors' pool of candidates. A player whose career ended more than 25 years ago remains eligible for Hall of Fame induction as a seniors candidate.
The Hall of Fame put together a blue-ribbon panel of selectors to determine the special class honoring the 100th season of the National Football League. Ten seniors will ultimately be inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with three contributors and two coaches.
Craig, 59 -- known for his high-stepping running style -- takes one step closer to induction into the Hall of Fame, though the list of finalists is an impressive collection of players that spans every decade from the 1920s through the 1990s.
Former Raiders star receiver Cliff Branch, who died Aug. 3, is also named as a finalist. He was 71.
Craig was a four-time Pro Bowl selection. He made the Pro Bowl as a fullback and tailback. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion. In 1985, he became was the first player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards both as a rusher and receiver in the same season. Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk is the only other player to accomplish the feat.
He was the 1988 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, as he rushed for 1,502 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 76 passes for 534 yards. Craig’s teams advanced to the playoffs in each of his 11 NFL seasons. He played his first eight seasons with the 49ers before going to the Los Angeles Raiders for one season and the Minnesota Vikings in 1992 and 1993.
In 1994, Craig became the first player to sign a ceremonial contract to retire with the 49ers, the team that selected him in the second round of the 1983 NFL draft.
The remainder of the special 20-person Class of 2020 will include five modern-era players who will be elected from 15 finalists by the full Selection Committee on the eve of Super Bowl 54 in Miami.
Recently, former 49ers standouts Bryant Young and Patrick Willis were named to the list of Hall of Fame modern-era semifinalists.
The modern-era player finalists will be announced on Jan. 2, 2020.
Here is the list of finalists from which the Blue-Ribbon Panel in January will select a part of the 2020 Hall of Fame Class that consists of 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches:
Eight Finalists – Coaches who last coached more than five seasons ago
Two Coaches will be inducted into the Hall’s special Centennial Class of 2020
Don Coryell – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers
Bill Cowher – 1992-2006 Pittsburgh Steelers
Tom Flores – 1979-1987 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-94 Seattle Seahawks
Mike Holmgren – 1992-98 Green Bay Packers, 1999-2008 Seattle Seahawks
Jimmy Johnson – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins
Buddy Parker – 1949 Chicago Cardinals, 1951-56 Detroit Lions, 1957-1964 Pittsburgh Steelers
Dan Reeves – 1981-1992 Denver Broncos, 1993-96 New York Giants, 1997-2003 Atlanta Falcons
Dick Vermeil – 1976-1982 Philadelphia Eagles, 1997-99 St. Louis Rams, 2001-05 Kansas City Chiefs
Ten Finalists – An individual other than a player or coach
Three Contributors will be inducted into the Hall’s special Centennial Class of 2020
Bud Adams, Owner – 1960-2013 Houston Oilers/Tennessee Oilers/Titans
Ralph Hay, Owner – 1918-1922 Canton Bulldogs
Frank “Bucko” Kilroy, Scout/General Manager/Executive – 1960-61 Philadelphia Eagles, 1962-64 Washington Redskins, 1965-1970 Dallas Cowboys, 1971-2006 New England Patriots
Art McNally, Official/Administrator – 1959-2015 National Football League
Art Modell, Owner – 1961-1995 Cleveland Browns, 1996-2011 Baltimore Ravens
Clint Murchison, Founder/Owner – 1960-1983 Dallas Cowboys
Steve Sabol, Administrator/President – 1964-2012 NFL Films
Seymour Siwoff, Owner/President – 1952-2019 Elias Sports Bureau
Paul Tagliabue, Commissioner – 1989-2006 National Football League
George Young, Contributor/General Manager – 1968-1974 Baltimore Colts, 1975-78 Miami Dolphins, 1979-1997 New York Giants, 1998-2001 National Football League
Twenty finalists – A player who last played more than 25 seasons ago
Ten Seniors will be inducted into the Hall’s special Centennial Class of 2020
Cliff Branch, WR – 1972-1985 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders
Harold Carmichael, WR – 1971-1983 Philadelphia Eagles, 1984 Dallas Cowboys
Jim Covert, T – 1983-1990 Chicago Bears
Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings
Bobby Dillon, S – 1952-59 Green Bay Packers
LaVern Dilweg, E – 1926 Milwaukee Badgers, 1927-1934 Green Bay Packers
Ox Emerson, G/LB/C – 1931-37 Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions, 1938 Brooklyn Dodgers
Randy Gradishar, LB – 1974-1983 Denver Broncos
Cliff Harris, S – 1970-79 Dallas Cowboys
Winston Hill, T – 1963-1976 New York Jets, 1977 Los Angeles Rams
Cecil Isbell, TB/DB/HB – 1938-1942 Green Bay Packers
Alex Karras, DT – 1958-1962, 1964-1970 Detroit Lions
Verne Lewellen, HB – 1924-27, 1928-1932 Green Bay Packers, 1927 New York Yankees
Tommy Nobis, LB – 1966-1976 Atlanta Falcons
Drew Pearson, WR – 1973-1983 Dallas Cowboys
Donnie Shell, S – 1974-1987 Pittsburgh Steelers
Duke Slater, T – 1922 Milwaukee Badgers, 1922-25 Rock Island Independents, 1926-1931 Chicago Cardinals
Mac Speedie, E – 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns [AAFC/NFL]
Ed Sprinkle, DE/LB/E – 1944-1955 Chicago Bears
Al Wistert, OT/DT/G – 1943 Phil-Pitt, 1944-1951 Philadelphia Eagles