History finally remembers Pollard, Friedman

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Hall of Fame's Class of 2005 may look a little strange.

The modern era players who were selected are two of the most recognized names in the sport -- Dan Marino and Steve Young. The other two aren't known as well. Halfback Fritz Pollard was a pioneer in the sport. He was one of two African Americans in a league that eventually became the NFL. In 1921, he became the first African American head coach in the NFL when the Akron Pros named him co-coach.

Benny Friedman was considered to be the quarterback who pioneered passing offense. He was a two-time All-American quarterback at Michigan who played between 1927 and 1934 for four teams. He started his career as a running quarterback, but he had a powerful arm.

Why Friedman and Pollard? Because they have been long overdue for enshrinement. The Hall of Fame started in 1963. Notes from those early days talked about how Friedman and Pollard were players who deserved a spot in the Hall of Fame, but after a while, they were forgotten.

That's when the senior committee came in and went through those notes and found it was necessary to correct history.

Two years ago, the Hall made a change in its selection process involving senior candidates. In votes before 2004, the senior candidate was separate from the modern candidates on the Hall of Fame ballot. The selectors had to vote yes or no as to whether to enshrine them.

In a three-year experiment, the senior committee gets two nominations on the 15-person ballot but they are not separate.

Getting Pollard and Friedman into this class apparently cost Michael Irvin of the Cowboys and Harry Carson of the Giants a chance to make it. They made the final six, but had more than eight votes against and didn't advance.

Carson sent a letter to the Hall recently asking that his name be removed from the ballot. This was his 12th year of eligibility and the sixth time he's been before the Board of Selectors. Though he came close to getting into the Hall, Carson didn't have enough votes.

Irvin was eligible for the first time. He and Redskins receiver Art Monk were on the ballot. Monk went from the vote of 15 to 10, but didn't make the final six. Monk's rejection might have affected the chances of Irvin making it in his first ballot.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.