Three legendary Heisman Trophy winners — stretching from Miami’s Vinny Testaverde in 1986 through Florida’s Danny Wuerffel in 1996 to Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in 1999 — head a 2013 College Football Hall of Fame class that, if there were a Hall of Fame for such things, would fit as a first-ballot enshrinee.
The class also includes Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier, who didn’t win a Heisman but was 34-3 as a starter and led the Huskers to consecutive national championships in 1994 and ’95.
Due to the vagaries of NFL careers, and the peculiarities of the National Football Foundation’s official and unofficial rules for selection, the 2013 class is loaded with legendary names. It includes:
- Ohio State offensive tack Orlando Pace, who won two Lombardi Awards and an Outland Trophy in his three-year career.
- Arizona defensive tackle Tedy Bruschi, a lightly recruited player from Northern California who became a two-time All-American. Bruschi went on to win three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots and now works for ESPN.
- NC State tailback Ted Brown, the only four-time All-ACC player in conference history
- Texas defensive back Jerry Gray, now the Tennessee Titans‘ defensive coordinator.
- Kentucky end Steve Meilinger, nominated by the Veterans Committee.
- The late Oklahoma linebacker Rod Shoate.
- Michigan State linebacker Percy Snow.
- Baylor quarterback Don Trull.
- Two coaches: Bill McCartney, who took over a rundown Colorado program in 1982 and led it to a share of the 1990 national championship; and Wayne Hardin, who coached 19 seasons at Navy (1959 to 1964) and Temple (1970 to 1982).
In 1963, Hardin’s Midshipmen, led by the Heisman winner Roger Staubach at quarterback, played for the national championship in the Cotton Bowl. Hardin went 118-74-5 (.612) at two schools that have struggled to put together a winning season since his departure.
In an era when coaches are being fired after two seasons, McCartney serves as a monument to patience. He won seven games in his first three seasons at Colorado.
Five years later, the Buffaloes played for the national championship. A year later, in 1990, they shared it with Georgia Tech. In all, McCartney went 93-55-5 (.624) at Colorado. He retired in 1994 at age 54 in order to devote his time and attention to Promise Keepers, a religious organization.
To qualify for the Hall of Fame, a player must have been a first-team All-American, have played within the past 50 years (afterward, he may be nominated by the Veterans Committee) and be retired from professional football. That’s why Testaverde had to wait so long.
He played in the NFL for 21 seasons. In fact, the nine players who won the Heisman after Testaverde preceded him into the Hall. With its other guidelines, the College Football Hall of Fame deviates from its brethren in other major American sports.
The Hall doesn’t automatically pick the top available players or the most recognizable names. The National Football Foundation, in order to honor players on both sides of the ball and players across the nation, attempts to include in every class at least one player from every position group and one player from each of the major conferences. In recent years, the Hall has chosen not to select a player from the same school in consecutive years.
The Foundation also shies away from selecting current NFL coaches because they are unable to participate in the Hall’s festivities in New York in early December. Gray, the Texas star, has the good fortune of the Titans being idle during the week of this year’s events.
Nebraska fans, whose love for Frazier knows few bounds, have grown more upset with every year that he has had to wait to be elected, even as other Huskers, such as offensive lineman Will Shields in 2011 and defensive lineman Grant Wistrom in 2009, have been elected. As big a star as Frazier is, he will have to share top billing. It’s that kind of year for the College Football Hall of Fame.
This article was originally posted on ESPN.com