The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2019 is here, and Ed Reed will lead a legendary group of playmakers into Canton this summer.
Ravens safety Reed, record-setting tight end Tony Gonzalez, eight-time Pro Bowl interior lineman Kevin Mawae, and dynamic cornerback Champ Bailey lead this year’s list of recently retired stars to take their place among the NFL’s immortals. They’ll be joined by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, who helped turned the Broncos from an also-ran into a juggernaut.
Here’s a breakdown of each worthy recipient of the league’s highest post-retirement honor.
Ed Reed, safety, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, and New York Jets
Reed made his bones as one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the NFL, giving the Ravens a fearsome last line of defense from the secondary. The Miami product spent his first 11 seasons in the league in Baltimore, delivering the franchise’s second NFL championship in 2013 and teaming with stars like Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs to form the lifeblood of a team no one enjoyed seeing on their schedule.
He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro. He’s also the third Ravens draftee to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, joining Lewis and Jonathan Ogden.
Tony Gonzalez, tight end, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons
Gonzalez was very, very good for a very, very long time, playing 17 seasons in the league and capping off a legendary career with an 859-yard, eight-touchdown campaign in 2013. He holds the NFL records for most receptions (1,325) and most receiving yards (15,127) for a tight end. He was a 14-time Pro Bowler, a 10-time All-Pro, and is one of the best players in league history to never win a Super Bowl.
Kevin Mawae, right guard and center, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets, and Tennessee Titans
Mawae was a mean, space-clearing interior lineman who was the eye of the hurricane that ripped through the trenches in three different stops. The former second-round pick put together a 16-year career that ended with a flourish; he was a first-team All-Pro in his second-to-last season in 2008, then a Pro Bowler in his final year in 2009. He was an eight-time All-Pro and, like every other player in this year’s Hall of Fame class, a member of the NFL’s all-2000s team.
Champ Bailey, cornerback, Washington and Denver Broncos
Bailey was a ballhawking presence who earned his freedom from Washington in a win-win trade for Clinton Portis, then thrived in the thin air of Denver. The Georgia cornerback found an extra gear with the Broncos, earning first-team All-Pro honors each season from 2004 to 2006 and eventually earning 12 Pro Bowl selections — most ever for a cornerback. His 203 passes defensed are an NFL record.
Ty Law, cornerback, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos
Law was a major piece of the Patriots’ turnaround. The 1995 first-round pick played for Bill Parcells, Pete Carroll, and Bill Belichick in his New England tenure, winning three Super Bowl rings in the process. He led the league in interceptions in both 1998 and 2005 — the latter his first year as a hired gun following his release in Foxborough. He also had six interceptions in the postseason, which includes a three-interception, three passes defensed performance against the Colts in the 2004 Divisional Round
He’d been eligible for enshrinement since 2014. This year, he received a little extra boost from a pair of future Hall of Famers, and that Brady-Belichick endorsement paid off.
Pat Bowlen, majority owner, Denver Broncos
The man who helped bring Bailey to Colorado will earn the league’s highest honor this summer. Bowlen purchased a majority share of the Broncos in 1984 and transformed the franchise from a franchise suitable of being mocked by The Simpsons into a consistent postseason presence. In his three decades as the club’s CEO, Denver went 289-189, won six AFC titles, and won two Super Bowls. The Broncos also won Super Bowl 50 two seasons after he stepped down from his post, but remained the team’s owner.
Gil Brandt, executive, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys
Brandt was a longtime front office presence who spent 28 years in Dallas, building the franchise into “America’s Team” in the process. He won a pair of Super Bowls in that stretch, which also included five NFC titles, 13 divisional crowns, and 20 straight winning seasons.
Johnny Robinson, flanker and defensive back, Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs
Robinson was one of the most versatile players of the 1960s, beginning his career as a multi-purpose offensive threat before developing into one of the game’s top defensive backs. He averaged 5.7 interceptions per season, twice leading the league. He also had four postseason interceptions while earning three world titles — including the Chiefs’ last Super Bowl win in 1969. He was a seven-time All-AFL honoree and a one-time All-Pro