Former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive lineman Justin Smith are among the first-time eligible players nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.
The Hall of Fame on Thursday released a total of 122 players who comprise the list of modern-era nominees. In order for a player to be eligible as a modern-era candidate, he must have played his final NFL season from five to 25 years ago.
Willis and Smith both retired as 49ers after the 2014 season.
Willis was selected to the Pro Bowl team in each of his seven full seasons in the NFL. In 2014, he played in only six games after experiencing foot issues that led to his retirement. Willis was the 2007 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a five-time All-Pro selection. He led the league in tackles in 2007 and 2009.
Smith played 14 NFL seasons. He played his final seven seasons with the 49ers after spending his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and a one-time All-Pro pick.
Among the other notable first-time eligible Hall of Fame candidates are safety Troy Polamalu, defensive end John Abraham and wide receiver Reggie Wayne.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch, who earned nine trips to the Pro Bowl as a safety for Tampa Bay and Denver, returns as a nominee after being a finalist in each of the past six years.
The list of former 49ers who are nominees for the 2020 class includes Jeff Garcia, Ricky Watters, Brent Jones, Bryant Young, Merton Hanks and Tim McDonald.
The modern-era player list will be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November. The field will be trimmed to 15 finalists in early January. The 48-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee will hold its annual meeting on Saturday, Feb. 1, in Miami.
In conjunction with the 100th season of the NFL, the Hall of Fame Board recently passed a measure to expand the 2020 Hall of Fame class to 20 members, including five modern-era inductees. The class will include 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches. A 25-person centennial “blue ribbon” panel will lead the selection of the senior, coaches and contributors.
(7) – Randall Cunningham, Jake Delhomme, Boomer Esiason, Jeff Garcia, Jeff Hostetler, Dave Krieg, Donovan McNabb
(19) – Shaun Alexander, Mike Alstott (FB), Tiki Barber, Earnest Byner, Larry Centers, Corey Dillon, Eddie George, Priest Holmes, *Edgerrin James, Daryl Johnston (FB), Thomas Jones, Maurice Jones-Drew, Eric Metcalf (also WR/KR/PR), Lorenzo Neal (FB), Clinton Portis, Fred Taylor, Herschel Walker (also KR), Chris Warren, Ricky Watters
(12) – *Isaac Bruce, Gary Clark, Donald Driver, Henry Ellard (also PR), Torry Holt, Chad Johnson, Derrick Mason, Muhsin Muhammad, Jimmy Smith, Rod Smith, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne
(6) – Dallas Clark, Ben Coates, Keith Jackson, Brent Jones, Jeremy Shockey, Wesley Walls
(19) – Willie Anderson (T), Matt Birk (C), *Tony Boselli (T), Lomas Brown (T), Ray Donaldson (C), *Alan Faneca (G), Kevin Gogan (G/T), Jordan Gross (T), Chris Hinton (G/T), Kent Hull (C), *Steve Hutchinson (G), Lincoln Kennedy (T/G), Olin Kreutz (C), Chris Samuels (T), Jeff Saturday (C), Brian Waters (G), Richmond Webb (T), Erik Williams (T), Steve Wisniewski (G)
(11) – John Abraham (DE also LB), La’Roi Glover (DT/NT), Casey Hampton (DT/NT), Chester McGlockton (DT), Leslie O’Neal (DE), Simeon Rice (DE), *Richard Seymour (DT), Justin Smith (DE), Neil Smith (DE), Greg Townsend (DT/NT), Bryant Young (DT)
(17) – Carl Banks, Cornelius Bennett, Lance Briggs, Tedy Bruschi, James Farrior, London Fletcher, Seth Joyner, Wilber Marshall, Clay Matthews, Willie McGinest (also DE), Sam Mills, Chris Spielman, Takeo Spikes, Darryl Talley, Zach Thomas, Jessie Tuggle, Patrick Willis
(15) – Eric Allen (CB), *Steve Atwater (S), Ronde Barber (CB/S), LeRoy Butler (S), Nick Collins (S), Merton Hanks (S), Rodney Harrison (S), Albert Lewis (CB), *John Lynch (S), Terry McDaniel (CB), Tim McDonald (S), Troy Polamalu (SS), Bob Sanders (S), Troy Vincent (CB), Darren Woodson (S)
(11) – David Akers (K), Gary Anderson (K), Jason Elam (K), Jeff Feagles (P), Jason Hanson (K), Sean Landeta (P), Ryan Longwell (K), Nick Lowery (K), Reggie Roby (P), Rohn Stark (P), Matt Turk (P)
(5) – Johnny Bailey (PR/KR also RB), Josh Cribbs (KR/PR also WR), Mel Gray (PR/KR also WR), Brian Mitchell (KR/PR also RB), Steve Tasker (ST also WR)
*-Finalist in 2019