The late Junior Seau, who was the heart and soul of the San Diego Chargers’ defense, and bruising running back Jerome Bettis were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Joining Seau, who was in his first year of eligibility, and Bettis in the 2015 class were 12-times Pro Bowl guard Will Shields, wide receiver Tim Brown, and defensive end Charles Haley.
“It’s definitely with heavy hearts accepting this because it should be him,” Seau’s son Tyler told reporters. “This is a blessing and we are humbled to be a part of this family.”
Seau, whose suicide in 2012 put the NFL’s concussion crisis on the national agenda, was the Chargers’ leader from 1990-2002. His career was highlighted by 12 straight Pro Bowl selections, tied for the third-longest streak ever.
He died after shooting himself in the chest. It was later revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a debilitating brain condition caused by repeated jolts to the head that can lead to aggression and dementia.
Bettis, who spent the bulk of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers, ranked fifth all-time in rushing with 13,662 yards at the time of his retirement in 2006.
Nicknamed “The Bus” for his bruising running style, the six-time Pro Bowl selection scored 91 rushing touchdowns and won a Super Bowl with the Steelers.
“To think that a little fat kid from Detroit who had never played football until high school, to think that I could ascend to this level,” said Bettis.
“At no point was there a time where I thought to myself that I had the ability to get to the Hall of Fame.”
Shields never missed a game during his 14-season career with the Kansas City Chiefs and his 224 games played and 223 starts are franchise records.
Brown developed into one of the greatest receivers of his era after a stunning career that earned him numerous franchise records with the Oakland Raiders.
Haley, who developed into one of the NFL’s most devastating pass rushers in a career spent with San Francisco and Dallas, is the only player to win five Super Bowls.
The Class of 2015 also includes former Minnesota Vikings center Mick Tinglehoff, who was the seniors committee nominee, and general manger Bill Polian and longtime executive Ron Wolf as choices for the contributors category.