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BREAKING: Hester, Peppers named finalists for Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024

Now the real fun begins.

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls - Game Three Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As expected, Devin Hester is back in the Pro Football Hall of Fame finals, now for the class of 2024. First-time eligible Julius Peppers is there too.

And now the fun begins.

The committee of 50 selectors will begin their jockeying and debating prior to their meeting in mid-January to determine the class of 2024. That announcement, during the NFL Honors ceremony in February, will include the vote on Steve McMichael as a senior candidate, which is a formality.

Players have 20 years of eligibility as a modern-era candidate before shifting to the senior pool. Finalists rarely fall out of the finals the following year, so with the exception of now-senior Albert Lewis, we basically knew that the nine 2023 returning finalists would be back: top 10 finishers Jared Allen, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne, and top 15 finishers Willie Anderson, Dwight Freeney, Patrick Willis, Darren Woodson and the GOAT returner, Devin Hester.

We also knew first-year eligible stars Antonio Gates and Julius Peppers would be here. That left four slots plus the possibility of ties. There were no ties, with the final four slots going to Eric Allen, Jahri Evans, Rodney Harrison, Fred Taylor.

The full list, courtesy of voter Clark Judge, with first-time finalists IN CAPS:

  • ERIC ALLEN, cornerback (18th year eligible, 2023 semifinalist)
  • Darren Woodson, safety (16th year eligible, 2023 top 15 finalist)
  • Willie Anderson, offensive tackle (11th year eligible, 2023 top 15 finalist)
  • RODNEY HARRISON, safety (11th year eligible, 2023 semifinalist)
  • Torry Holt, wide receiver (10th year eligible, 2023 top 10 finalist)
  • FRED TAYLOR, running back (9th year eligible, 2023 semifinalist)
  • Reggie Wayne, wide receiver (5th year eligible, 2023 top 10 finalist)
  • Patrick Willis, linebacker (5th year eligible, 2023 top 15 finalist)
  • Jared Allen, defensive end (4th year eligible, 2023 top 10 finalist)
  • Devin Hester, returner (3rd year eligible, 2023 top 15 finalist)
  • Andre Johnson, wide receiver (3rd year eligible, 2023 top 10 finalist)
  • Dwight Freeney, defensive end (2nd year eligible, 2023 top 15 finalist)
  • JAHRI EVANS, offensive guard (2nd year eligible, 2023 semifinalist)
  • ANTONIO GATES, tight end (1st year eligible)
  • JULIUS PEPPERS, defensive end (1st year eligible)

What happens now with Devin Hester?

This is Hester’s third year of eligibility and his third time as a finalist. He’s a lock for Canton — the question is when. In his first year, he made it to the final cut (the top 10). Last year he dropped to just the top 15. I’ve written extensively about Hester’s historic resume. I want to see him make it this year. You know why? Because there aren’t five players of the remaining 15 with a better resume than his. The numbers and the impact and the combination of the two. Hester has it all.

We’ll see if voters agree. Stay tuned!

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Jack M Silverstein is Chicago’s sports historian, Bears historian at Windy City Gridiron, a Pro Football Hall of Fame analyst with the Not In the Hall of Fame Committee, a contributor to PFHOF voter Clark Judge’s regular “Judge & Jury” series and author of the forthcoming “6 Rings: The Bulls, The City, and the Dynasty that Changed the Game.” His newsletter, “A Shot on Ehlo,” brings readers inside the making of the book, with original interviews, research and essays. Sign up now, and say hey at @readjack.

Thank you to Pro Football Reference and Stathead.