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Irvin, Thomas also first-year picks

CANTON, Ohio -- Steve Young and Dan Marino set dozens of NFL
passing records in the 1980s and '90s, some of which Peyton Manning
is erasing now. Young and Marino soon might have something else in
common: membership in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The two retired quarterbacks are among 15 finalists for the hall
announced Tuesday. The class of 2005, which will have from three to
six members, will be announced Feb. 5, the day before the Super
Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

"It's an honor to get to this stage of the selection process
and to be considered along with 14 other deserving candidates,"
Marino said in a statement released by CBS, where he is a
commentator on its NFL pregame show.

"I've always said that election to the Pro Football Hall of
Fame was the greatest individual achievement in the game and it
would be one of the highlights of my career to join the sport's
greatest players in Canton."

Marino, who holds many of the NFL's career passing records, and
Young, who led San Francisco to the 1995 Super Bowl title, are
among four finalists who made the list in their first year of
eligibility.

The others are Michael Irvin, a member of the Dallas teams that
won three Super Bowls between 1992 and 1995, and the late Derrick
Thomas, the Kansas City linebacker who died in 2000 after a car
accident.

Marino completed 4,967 of 8,358 passes for 61,343 yards and 420
touchdowns from 1983-99 with the Miami Dolphins. He passed for
3,000 yards in a season 13 times, including six seasons in which he
reached 4,000. The native of Pittsburgh, who played for the
University of Pittsburgh, passed for 300 yards in a game 63 times
and 400 yards 13 times.

He held the record of 48 touchdown passes in a season until
Manning threw 49 this season for the Indianapolis Colts.

Young, one of the top-rated passers in NFL history, was the 1995
Super Bowl MVP after throwing six touchdown passes in the 49ers'
49-26 win over San Diego.

"It's a huge honor to be considered with the names on this
list, some of the all-time greats," Young said in a statement
issued through ESPN, where he is an NFL analyst. "I have always
had enormous respect for the Hall of Fame and all it represents,
and should this come to pass it would be the capstone to my
athletic career."

The left-handed Young threw for at least 3,000 yards in a season
six times and had 20 or more touchdown passes in a season five
times. Adept at avoiding onrushing defenders and scrambling for
yardage, he rushed for 4,239 yards and 43 touchdowns.

His league record for passer rating in a season -- 112.8 in 1994
-- was also shattered this season by Manning, who finished at 121.1.

Two of the finalists had already been determined: senior
nominees Fritz Pollard and Benny Friedman.

Pollard, who played in the 1920s, was the first black coach of
an NFL team. Friedman played for several teams from 1927-34.

The other nominees are linebacker Harry Carson, who played for
the New York Giants in the 1970s and 1980s and was a member of the
1987 Super Bowl champions; defensive end Richard Dent, MVP for the
Chicago Bears in the 1986 Super Bowl; defensive end L.C. Greenwood,
a member of Pittsburgh's "Steel Curtain" teams of the 1970s;
guard Russ Grimm, a member of Washington's famed "Hogs";
defensive end Claude Humphrey, who played for Atlanta and
Philadelphia between 1968-81; guard Bob Kuechenberg, who played on
Miami's 1972 undefeated Super Bowl champions; receiver Art Monk, a
member of three Super Bowl winners with Washington; Roger Wehrli, a
cornerback for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1969-82; and the late
George Young, who built two Super Bowl winners as general manager
of the Giants.