TAMPA — Linebacker Derrick Brooks, safety John Lynch and coach Tony Dungy, key contributors when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers emerged as an NFL power in the late 1990s, all took a major step forward Wednesday in their quest to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In their first year of eligibility, Brooks and Dungy made the list of 25 modern-day candidates still being considered for the Class of 2014. Lynch advanced to the semifinalist round for the second consecutive year when the announcement was made during a live broadcast on NFL Network.
Lynch, a nine-time Pro Bowler, was eliminated last January when the Hall of Fame panel whittled the 2013 list down to a final group of 15 modern-era candidates. A maximum of five are allowed into any class.
“Going down those names, it's very humbling to be on a list with all these terrific players,'' Lynch said. “I'm very proud to be one of the semifinalists, along with Derrick and Coach Dungy. For a long time, our defense in Tampa was so good, teams knew they'd better bring their hard hat to the game.”
The final list of 15 nominees will be announced Jan. 8 and the Class of 2014 will be named on Feb. 1, the day before the Super Bowl, in New York.
The late defensive end Lee Roy Selmon had been the only Buccaneer inducted into the Canton, Ohio, shrine to excellence until this summer, when he was joined by two-time All-Decade defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Brooks, currently the president of the Tampa Bay Storm, played all 14 of his NFL seasons with the Bucs, earning 11 Pro Bowl berths while defining the weakside linebacker position in the highly influential Tampa 2 defense.
“I'm very humbled to make it this far, and yet there is a very long journey ahead. I want to keep everything in perspective during this selection process.”
During Tampa Bay's 2002 championship season, Brooks returned three interceptions for touchdowns and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year. He entered the NFL with Sapp as a first-round draft pick in 1995 and they played critical roles during Tampa Bay's championship run.
Dungy, now a NBC football analyst living in Tampa, replaced Sam Wyche on the Bucs sideline in 1996. Joining a franchise that had reeled off 13 consecutive losing seasons, Dungy had the Bucs in the playoffs in only his second year and posted a 54-42 record during his six seasons in Tampa.
Dungy went 85-27 in seven years with Indianapolis and became the first African American coach to win a Super Bowl when he led the 2006 Colts to a 16-4 mark. He retired in 2009 after making the playoffs in an NFL-record 10 straight seasons.
Lynch, who worked the first three Bucs games this year as an analyst for Fox, played 11 seasons for Tampa Bay after being selected in the third round of the 1993 draft.
A hard-hitting safety who registered 23 career interceptions and 973 tackles for Tampa Bay, Lynch made the Pro Bowl five times as a Buccaneer before earning a trip to Hawaii in each of his four seasons in Denver. He currently lives in San Diego.
The other 22 that advanced to the group of 25 semifinalists were: K Morten Andersen, S Steve Atwater, RB Jerome Bettis, WR Tim Brown, coach Don Coryell, RB Roger Craig, RB Terrell Davis, owner Edward DeBartolo Jr., LB-DE Kevin Greene, P DE-LB Charles Haley, WR Marvin Harrison, OT Joe Jacoby, coach Jimmy Johnson, OT Walter Jones, LB Karl Mecklenburg, WR Andre Reed, G Will Shields, DE Michael Strahan, commissioner Paul Tagliabue, CB Aeneas Williams, G Steve Wisniewski and contributor George Young.
The two senior nominees for the Class of 2014 are punter Ray Guy and defensive end Claude Humphrey.
Editor's note: NFL writer Ira Kaufman is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame voting committee.