The nominees for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame were announced this week and there were plenty of familiar names listed, including a few who are near and dear to Iowa fans.
There are currently nine former Hawkeye players in the College Football Hall of Fame: Nile Kinnick (inducted 1951), Duke Slater (1951), Gordon Locke (1960), Aubrey Devine (inducted 1973), Cal Jones (1980), Alex Karras (1991), Randy Duncan (1997), Chuck Long (1999), and Larry Station (2009). As you can see no Hawkeye has been inducted since 2009 and no player from the Kirk Ferentz era at Iowa has been inducted yet. Of course only two player from Hayden Fry's illustrious tenure at Iowa has been inducted, too -- Chuck Long and Larry Station. (Interestingly, Andre Tippett has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but not the College Football Hall of Fame.) It's not easy to get into the College Football Hall of Fame.
To be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation sets out several criteria for players:
- Players must have received major first team All-America recognition
- Players become eligible for consideration 10 years after their last year of college football
- Players must have played college football within the last 50 years
- Players must have ended their professional football career prior to the nomination
- Football achievements are prioritized, but post-football activities may also be considered
Clark and Gallery both meet those baseline criteria. Dallas Clark was a unanimous first-team All-American selection in 2002 and Robert Gallery was a unanimous first-team All-American selection a year later, in 2003. They were also considered standout players at their positions nationally -- Clark won the John Mackey Award as the best tight end in the nation in 2002 and Gallery won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best lineman in 2003. Obviously both played within the last 50 years and it's been 10+ years since they played at Iowa (it's actually been 15 years and since I was an undergrad around the same time they were nope that doesn't make me feel old at all no sir). They've also both been retired from pro football for a few years now.
Clark and Gallery were very very very good -- Gallery, in particular, was as good a lineman as I've ever seen at Iowa. I can still vividly remember him mauling opponents who lined up across from him, especially in his dominant 2003 campaign. Blitzing safeties splatted against him like bugs against a windshield during a highway drive. The issue is that it turns out that there are a lot of very very very good college football players. This year's crop of nominees includes the likes of Flozell Adams, Keith Byars, Eric Crouch, Eric Dickerson, Bobby Engram, Tony Gonzalez, Marvin Harrison, Steve Hutchinson, Ray Lewis, Darren McFadden, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, David Pollack, Simeon Rice, and Joe Thomas, among many many more. You can find the full listing here.
One thing that tends to put nominees over the hump, especially when being compared against their very best peers, is if they were able to be dominant for more than one season. Steve Hutchison, for example, was a four-time All-Big Ten first team selection, which is just bonkers. Troy Polamalu was a two-time first-team All-American, which is very heady space to occupy. Between Clark and Gallery, I think Gallery has a better chance of being inducted into the Hall of Fame at some point; Clark had a good Iowa career, but mainly one marvelous season in 2002. Meanwhile, Gallery was a two-time All-Big Ten first team selection, in addition to the national recognition he received in 2003.
So will a player from the Ferentz era crack the ranks of the College Football Hall of Fame? I think so, though it won't be easy. The truth is most of the best players of the Ferentz era have only had one truly dominant or standout season and it usually takes at least two seasons like that to feel good about getting into the Hall of Fame. There are two players who I think have a pretty good shot: Nate Kaeding and Desmond King. Kaeding is a two-time first-team All-American, the only player to date to accomplish that feat during Ferentz's tenure. He also won the Lou Groza Award in 2002 (and should have won it again in 2003 but, nope, we're not still bitter about that or anything). Unfortunately, he's also a kicker, and Football Halls of Fame haven't always been very accommodating to specialists. King was a unanimous All-American in 2015 and a second-team All-American in 2016; he also won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015, was first-team All-Big Ten in 2015 and 2016 and Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year in 2015. Will either of them make it? Who knows -- but I think they have the list of accomplishments to make it possible.
In the meantime, though, congratulations to Dallas Clark and Robert Gallery for earning very deserved nominations for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. You were two of our favorite Hawkeyes to watch in the early '00s and we'll be rooting like hell for you to make it into the Hall.
P.S. If you're interested in college football history and you're ever in Atlanta and have a chance, swing by the College Football Hall of Fame's physical location there. It's a fun place to visit and immerse yourself in college football history for a few hours.