Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions: Manning, Johnson and Woodson highlight 2021 class


CANTON, Ohio — The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021, headlined by three players who were in their first year of eligibility, closed out the Hall’s biggest enshrinement weekend Sunday night in Tom Benson Stadium.

Seven members of the class were scheduled to take to the podium during the evening, including Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson and Charles Woodson — all three were selected for enshrinement in their first year of eligibility. It is the ninth consecutive year at least one former player has been enshrined in his first year of eligibility.

The celebration comes on the heels of Saturday’s enshrinement ceremony, which featured Troy Polamalu, Edgerrin James and former Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson.

Here are some of the highlights from the seven newest Hall of Famers who spoke from the podium Sunday in the order they appeared, as well as social media and congratulatory messages from their former teammates and teams:

Sunday’s speakers

Drew Pearson, wide receiver (Dallas Cowboys, 1973-1983)

The résumé: A former college quarterback who made the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie wide receiver, he was the only first-team selection to the All-Decade team of the 1970s who had not been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Like many senior finalists, his career had to be looked at in the context of his era, given that his 58 catches in 1976 and 870 yards in 1977 led the league. A three-time All-Pro, he averaged at least 17 yards a catch in five seasons, including four of his first five years in the league.

He said it: “I had the biggest afro in NFL history (pointed to bust) … This confirms it, the wait is over, is over. The original No. 88 being presented for enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame … Guess what, strong hearts just keep going and that’s why I’m standing here on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame … It has been a journey, a tough, long journey on the road less travelled … I did it my way and I did it the hard way … Let me show you these legs, these legs made it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (pulled up trouser legs for crowd).”

Photos and videos from Canton

Read more on these NFL legends

Peyton Manning changed QB’ing forever
Inside Calvin Johnson‘s 329-yard game
Troy Polamalu‘s bond with Bill Cowher
Edgerrin James‘ legacy tied to HBCUs
J. Johnson: ‘How ’bout them Cowboys?’
Charles Woodson‘s legendary path in NFL
Winston Hill, Joe Namath’s friendship
Get to know this year’s HOF classes
Videos: Watch these HOF moments

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