Junior Seau headlines HOF class

PHOENIX -- Former San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and Kansas City Chiefs guard Will Shields, both 12-time Pro Bowl selections during their NFL careers, were elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 on Saturday.

Seau, in his first year of eligibility, Shields, former Pittsburgh Steelers running back and current ESPN analyst Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown and defensive end Charles Haley were the five modern-era enshrinees selected in the meeting of the Hall's board of selectors.

The class of 2015 also will include former Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, who played 240 games in his career and was the seniors committee nominee, as well as two nominees in the contributors category -- former Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian, as well as longtime NFL executive Ron Wolf.

The board of selectors began the day with 15 modern-era finalists, which were trimmed first to 10 finalists and then to five in the daylong meeting. A finalist must receive 80 percent of the vote from the 46 selectors to be selected for enshrinement.

The class was announced during the "NFL Honors" awards show inside the Phoenix Symphony Hall. It will be formally enshrined at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in August.

Seau played 13 seasons with the Chargers, three years with the Miami Dolphins and his final four seasons with the New England Patriots. He was an eight-time first-team All-Pro selection in his career, was the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, and had 64 career games with at least 10 tackles.

He committed suicide in 2012 and later was found to have developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (a brain disease).

"This is a huge honor for our family," said Tyler Seau, Junior's son. "It is definitely with a heavy heart that I am accepting this because he should be here. He is here with us right now, and he is joining this family and team that everyone is talking about, but I think family is even stronger. Emotionally, it is tough because we are missing a huge part, but we are staying strong and this is a blessing. We are humbled to be a part of this family."

As they prepared for Sunday's Super Bowl XLIX, both Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady remembered Seau fondly.

"It's obviously got to happen," Belichick said. "I can't imagine having a Professional Football Hall of Fame without Junior Seau in it."

Added Brady: "He was a phenomenal player, teammate, friend. His attitude was infectious. He brought enthusiasm every day to practice. He showed up in the room and he'd be the first person there at six in the morning on the treadmill running, going into his 18th year in the league. He had a love for life and he's missed by all of his family and friends, and certainly by me and the guys that had a chance to be around him. He was a special person."

Shields never missed a game in his 14 seasons with the Chiefs and started all but one game of his career.

Haley was in his 11th year of eligibility, Brown in his sixth and Bettis in his fifth. Haley won five Super Bowls -- two with San Francisco and three with Dallas -- the only player to do so.

"I can't describe how I felt, but the one thing that I do know is that I get to share this with my teammates, and I believe some of the greatest men, some of the greatest coaches," Haley said. "For me, that's what makes this special. Individual awards have never been one of the things I believed in -- I believed in team, but God, I have a new team, all the guys in the Hall of Fame. I'm just very, very, very happy."

When Bettis retired following the 2005 season his 13,662 yards rushing were fifth all time and his eight 1,000-yard seasons were tied for third all time. Bettis celebrated the Hall's decision in a series of tweets Saturday night.

"A little fat kid from Detroit who had never played football until high school, to think that I could ascend to this level," Bettis said. "And this is something that I never dreamed of, never thought of. My goal when I played football in high school was to get to college, and once I got to college and realized that the opportunity was there, it was to earn a living and help my family. So, at no point was there ever a time where I thought to myself that I had the ability to get to the Hall of Fame. That was never the idea, and to now actually be here, it's humbling because some of the greatest men to have ever played this game -- to see Jim Brown, to know that I am now a teammate of the greatest running back to ever play this game, it's a special and humbling moment, and it's something I'm going to cherish for the rest of my life."

At the time of his retirement, Brown was third all time in catches (1,094), second all time in receiving yards (14,934) and tied for third all time with 100 touchdown receptions.

Brown also had 3,320 career punt return yards.

"First of all, the great Ron Wolf drafted me into the league, so it's an incredible double honor to be going in with him. But I don't think there's any doubt that without Jon Gruden and what he did for me in those four years, I wouldn't be here," Brown said. "My numbers were OK, but when he came, in four years what we were able to do sort of put me in a totally different atmosphere. I had the chance to speak with him already tonight and thank him for everything that he was able to do. As far as who is going to give my speech, it will be my brother (Don Kelly). He's the one that taught me how to catch a ball when I was 7 years old. If not for him, I don't think I would have played the game."

Among the players and coaches who did not make the cut Saturday were kicker Morten Andersen, coach Don Coryell, running back Terrell Davis, coach Tony Dungy, linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene, wide receiver Marvin Harrison, coach Jimmy Johnson, safety John Lynch, tackle Orlando Pace and quarterback Kurt Warner.

Pace and Warner, who both played for the St. Louis Rams' "Greatest Show on Turf," were in the first year of eligibility. Warner guided St. Louis to its only Super Bowl victory after the 1999 season and led the Rams to the title game two years later. He also helped Arizona get to its only Super Bowl after the 2008 season and won league MVP honors in both 1999 and 2001.

Anderson made 40 career field goals of at least 50 yards and is the NFL's all-time leading scorer (2,544 points).

Lynch spent 11 seasons with Tampa Bay and four with Denver, and made nine Pro Bowls. Davis' 142.5 yards rushing per game in the postseason is best in league history and the Denver Broncos won 91.7 percent of their games -- regular season and postseason combined -- when he rushed for at least 100 yards as he powered back-to-back Super Bowl winners.

Greene played for four teams and made the Pro Bowl five times.

Coryell's passing game has been oft-imitated through the years, including a version used by Joe Gibbs in his Hall of Fame coaching career, as the Chargers led the NFL in passing yards in six consecutive seasons in Coryell's tenure with the team.