The selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2016 has narrowed the list down to 25 athletes.
Five of the 25 are former Rams players, and four of them were former members of the “Greatest Show on Turf”.
They are: OL Orlando Pace, WR’s Torry Holt and Issac Bruce, and QB Kurt Warner.
The other is former Rams’ linebacker Kevin Greene.
Greene was drafted in 1985, and would eventually play 15 seasons in the National Football League. Of those 15 seasons, eight of them were with the Rams. He finished his long career with 160 total sacks, which is ranked in the top five in NFL history, and the most ever by a linebacker.
Pace, 40, was drafted with the first-overall pick in the 1997 in the NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams (who acquired the pick from the New York Jets). He was the first offensive lineman since Roy Yary in 1968 to be the first overall pick in the draft. He signed a seven-year, $29.4 million dollar deal and played in 13 games during his rookie season. He was named as a Pro Bowl alternate the following season.
His biggest season came in 1999. Leading the offensive line (along with right guard Adam Timmerman), Pace played in 896 of 994 offensive plays ran by the high-octane offense St. Louis possessed, as he went to his first Pro Bowl, as well as First-team All-Pro.
A perennial player known for his durability as well (he started 154 consecutive games), Rams’ quarterbacks threw for more than 3,000 yards in all 12 of his NFL seasons, seven different quarterbacks eclipsed the 3,000-yard mark in a season, including three times surpassing the 4,000-yard mark, and blocked for seven 1,000-yard rushers (namely Marshall Faulk and Steven Jackson).
He retired following the 2009 season.
Next there’s Holt. Drafted by the Rams in the 1999 NFL Draft with the number six pick, Holt was a part of a star wide receiver corps along the likes of Bruce, Ricky Proehl, and Az-Zahir Hakim. In his rookie campaign, Holt accumulated 53 receptions, 788 total yards and six touchdowns as the Rams scored over 500 points for the first time in franchise history.
For six consecutive seasons (2000-2005), Holt reached the 1,300 yardage mark, a then-league record, establishing himself as arguably the top receiver (at least top three) during the mid-2000’s. Holt had 868 receptions for 12,594 yards. In the history of the St. Louis Rams, the wide receiver ranks in second place, right behind Bruce in not only career receptions (869), but yards receiving (12,660), as well as third in touchdowns (74) and all-purpose yards (12,732).
Following stints with Jacksonville and New England (albeit only on the practice squad), Holt retired following the 2010 season.
As far as “The Reverend” is concerned, Bruce was the last active Los Angeles Rams player when he retired in 2010. Drafted in the second round in the 1994 NFL draft, Bruce only had three touchdowns and 272 receiving yards in his rookie campaign, but his fortunes would soon chance forever. The following season, he had nearly 1,800 receiving yards (1,781 total yards, a career high) and 13 touchdowns.
But much like Holt, Bruce’s best consistent seasons came during the “Greatest Show on Turf”, as he was to the Rams as Michael Irvin was to the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990’s. From 1999-2001, Bruce played in 48 games, caught 228 passes, garnered 3742 receiving yards to go along with 27 touchdowns. He only fumbled five times. With the Rams beginning to suffer multiple injuries across the board the following years, Bruce’s production took a hit, as the veteran suffered as well. He did, however, have three more 1,000+ yard seasons.
Having two more seasons with the 49ers, the four-time pro bowler retired after the 2010 season. His #80 has subsequently been retired by the Rams, and he finished his long career with 14,109 receiving yards (third all-time) and 942 receptions (sixth all-time). He leads the Rams in every wide receiver category.
And then there is Warner.
The Cinderella story that is Warner’s career is considered one of the greatest in all of sports.
He went undrafted in 1994 and was a member of the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad, but was later cut. Around this time, and during successful stints in both NFL Europe and Arena Football, Warner was stocking shelves at a local Hy-Vee store, a notable aspect in his Cinderella story. Finally, the wait was over in 1998 when he was signed by the St. Louis Rams. He was the third string quarterback behind Tony Banks and Steve Bono. To start the 1999 season, he was a backup to the newly-acquired Trent Green.
But Green tore his ACL in the preseason, and instead of signing another quarterback, the Rams sent Warner to the helm, and head coach Dick Vermeil famously made it clear: “we will rally around Kurt Warner… and we will play good football.”
And in the 1999 season, they did just that, as he threw for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns in the regular season as the leader of the “Greatest Show on Turf”. He was named NFL MVP as well as Super Bowl MVP in 1999. He ranks first on the franchise list in career passer rating (97.1), and is fifth all-time in Ram’s history with 14,447 yards passing and 102 touchdowns.
After leaving the Rams in 2004, Warner had stints with the New York Giants and more notably, the Arizona Cardinals, where he helped rejuvenate a struggling franchise, leading them to their first-ever Super Bowl, though they lost in heartbreaking fashion. His career ended in the 2009 NFC Championship Game against the New Orleans Saints after taking a vicious illegal shot to the head. After 12 seasons, Warner left the game holding multiple NFL records, as well as Rams records (the majority of which remain to this day).
He finished with 32,344 passing yards, a 208-128 TD:INT ratio, a career 93.7 passer rating, four pro bowls, and three NFL MVP awards.
These five players all have a shot to make it to Canton, but with all of the talent in this year’s class, the challenge is high. It remains to be seen who will get inducted, but one thing is for certain: they all left their mark on the game of football, on and off the field.