Popular former 49ers defensive stars Patrick Willis and Bryant Young advanced to be included among the 25 semifinalists of modern-era players for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.

Willis and Young are among seven first-time semifinalists the Hall of Fame announced Tuesday, as the selection committee narrowed the list of candidates from 122 nominees after the first round of voting. Willis and Young played their entire careers with the 49ers after being first-round draft picks.

Former 49ers running back Ricky Watters was also chosen as a first-time semifinalist, along with two other previously eligible players, linebacker Carl Banks and running back Fred Taylor.

Willis, safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Reggie Wayne are the first-time eligible players who were voted into the top 25.

San Francisco general manager John Lynch, who was voted to nine Pro Bowls in 15 seasons as a safety with Tampa Bay and Denver, was named as a semifinalist for the eighth consecutive year.

The modern-era players list will be reduced to 15 finalists to be announced on Jan. 2, 2020. The finalists will then be discussed in front of the full 48-member selection committee during its annual meeting on Feb. 1, 2020, the day before Super Bowl LIV in Miami.

The selection committee will elect up to five modern-era players for the Class of 2020. In addition, a special Centennial Class that will be comprised of 10 seniors (a player who has been retired for more than 25 seasons), three contributors (an individual other than a player or coach) and two coaches.

The seniors, contributors and coaches will be selected by a special 25-person Centennial “Blue-Ribbon” Panel.

 

Willis played seven full seasons after entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick of the 49ers in 2007. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and was named first-team All-Pro five times.

Willis led the NFL in tackles twice in his career before appearing in just six games in 2014 due to a foot injury. He retired the following offseason at the age of 30.

Young had an outstanding 14-year career that included four Pro Bowl appearances and one first-team All-Pro selection. He was on a Super Bowl champion as a rookie in 1994, and won Comeback Player of the Year in 1999 after a broken leg ended his previous season after 12 games.

Young is the all-time 49ers leader with 89.5 sacks. This is his eighth year of eligibility for the Hall of Fame.

Watters played his first three NFL seasons with the 49ers and was a key member of the team’s Super Bowl champion for the 1994 season as a dual-threat back. A five-time Pro Bowl performer, Watters ranks 24th all-time with 10,643 rushing yards.

2020 MODERN-ERA PLAYER SEMIFINALISTS
The following is the alphabetical list of 2020 Modern-Era Player Semifinalists, including their positions, years and teams. Also listed are the number of times and years the candidate has been named a semifinalist since this reduction vote was added to the Selection Committee Bylaws in 2004.

--Steve Atwater , S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 9 – 2012-2020)
--Carl Banks , LB – 1984-1992 New York Giants, 1993 Washington Redskins, 1994-95 Cleveland Browns | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Ronde Barber , CB/S – 1997-2012 Tampa Bay Buccaneers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Tony Boselli , T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2016-2020)
--Isaac Bruce , WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2015-2020)
--LeRoy Butler , S – 1990-2001 Green Bay Packers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Alan Faneca , G – 1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2016-2020)
--Torry Holt , WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2015-2020)
--Steve Hutchinson , G – 2001-05 Seattle Seahawks, 2006-2011 Minnesota Vikings, 2012 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Edgerrin James , RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2015-2020)
--John Lynch , FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 8 – 2013-2020)
--Clay Matthews , LB – 1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2012, 2017, 2019-2020)
--Sam Mills , LB – 1986-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-97 Carolina Panthers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2016, 2019-2020)
--Troy Polamalu , S – 2003-2014 Pittsburgh Steelers (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Simeon Rice , DE – 1996-2000 Arizona Cardinals, 2001-06 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2007 Denver Broncos, 2007 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2018, 2020)
--Richard Seymour , DE/DT – 2001-08 New England Patriots, 2009-2012 Oakland Raiders | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2018-2020)
--Steve Tasker , ST/WR – 1985-86 Houston Oilers, 1986-1997 Buffalo Bills | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2004, 2008-2010, 2012-13, 2020)
--Fred Taylor , RB – 1998-2008 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2009-2010 New England Patriots | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Zach Thomas , LB – 1996-2007 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2019-2020)
--Hines Ward , WR – 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2017-2020)
--Ricky Watters , RB – 1992-94 San Francisco 49ers, 1995-97 Philadelphia Eagles, 1998-2001 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Reggie Wayne , WR – 2001-2014 Indianapolis Colts | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Patrick Willis , LB – 2007-2014 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)
--Darren Woodson , S – 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2015, 2017, 2019-2020)
--Bryant Young , DT – 1994-2007 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2020)

 

Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee.