With Devin Hester's selection for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024 as the player many say is the greatest all-time returner, the Class of 2025 will feature another special teams decision for the board of selectors.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri, the NFL's all-time leading scorer (2,673 points with an NFL record 599 field goals), will be in his first year of eligibility for the Hall. He made 29 game-winning kicks in 24 seasons before retiring at age 48. He had game-winning kicks in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII.
Former New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick once called Vinatieri "the greatest kicker of all time who made the greatest kick of all time." That referred to Vinatieri's kick in the 2001 AFC playoffs in blizzard-like conditions, also known as the Tuck Rule game.
Quarterback Eli Manning, running back Marshawn Lynch and linebacker Luke Kuechly, an all-decade selection for the 2010s, will also be among those in their first year of eligibility. Lynch's powerful style launched plenty of highlights. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection, finished his career with 10,413 rushing yards and led the league in rushing touchdowns twice. His 85 touchdowns are 17th all time, two touchdowns more than Hall of Famer Jim Taylor.
Manning, who was a two-time Super Bowl winner against Belichick's Patriots as well as a two-time Super Bowl MVP, was a four-time Pro Bowler but never first- or second-team All-Pro selection.
Kuechly, like linebacker Patrick Willis who was selected for enshrinement this year, had his career cut short by injuries. In eight seasons, Kuechly was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and a five-time first-team All-Pro.
Also in his first year of eligibility will be defensive end/outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection who finished his career with 139 sacks, eighth all time since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.
Among the players who were finalists for the Class of 2024 but not selected and will return to the ballot are offensive tackle Willie Anderson, defensive end Jared Allen, tight end Antonio Gates, wide receiver Torry Holt, safety Rodney Harrison, safety Darren Woodson, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and running back Fred Taylor.
Gates, who was in his first year of eligibility in 2024, had seven seasons of at least 800 receiving yards, two seasons of at least 1,000 yards and 21 career games with at least two touchdown receptions.
The list of full-time kickers enshrined in Canton is a short one: Morten Andersen, whose scoring record Vinatieri surpassed, and Jan Stenerud. Andersen was the last kicker enshrined (Class of 2017). George Blanda and Lou Groza also are in the Hall but played other positions over their careers.