For the second year in a row, offensive tackle Willie Anderson and pass rushers Robert Mathis and DeMarcus Ware are among the modern semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced the 28 modern-day semifinalists for its Class of 2023 Tuesday afternoon, and as with the Class of 2022, the list included the same three players with Alabama football roots — Anderson (Vigor, Auburn), Mathis (Alabama A&M ) and Ware (Auburn High, Troy).
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The semifinalists rose from the 129 modern-time nominees for the Class of 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame. A player is considered recent if he has been retired for at least five seasons and has been active for the last 25 seasons.
Five other players from Alabama high schools and colleges were among the 129 modern-day nominees for the Class of 2023. Among the players who did not make semifinalist status were running back Shaun Alexander (Alabama), linebacker Cornelius Bennett (Ensley, Alabama ), linebacker Takeo Spikes (Auburn), defensive end Justin Tuck (Central-Coosa) and wide receiver Roddy White (UAB).
Anderson achieved semifinalist status for the third consecutive year. Mathis and Ware reached this stage in their two years of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A 10th pick in the 1996 draft, Anderson was a fixture in right offensive tackle for Cincinnati, starting in every but two Bengals games from 1997-2006. He was on the AFC Pro Bowl team every year from 2003 to 2006 and was a first-team All-Pro in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Anderson blocked in two record-breaking games for running back Corey Dillon — an NFL rookie-record 246 rushing yards against the Tennessee Oilers in 1997 and an NFL-record 278 rushing yards against the Denver Broncos in 2000.
Mathis played 13 NFL seasons for the Indianapolis Colts and at 54 is the NFL career leader for forced fumbles. Mathis recorded 123 sacks, which ranks 20th in NFL history, and led the league in that statistic with 19.5 in 2013 when he was a first-team All-Pro pick.
A five-time Pro Bowler, Mathis played in two Super Bowls, including the Colts’ 29-17 win over the Chicago Bears in the 2006 NFL Championship game, and Indianapolis won 68 percent of the 192 regular-season games he played in.
Ware ranks ninth on the NFL’s career sack list with 138.5 over his 12 seasons, and he led the league in sacks with 20 in 2008 and 15.5 in 2010
In nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Ware was named a first-team All-Pro four times and was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times. Ware spent his last three seasons with the Denver Broncos, earning two more Pro Bowl invites and helping the Broncos win Super Bowl 50 to wrap up the 2015 season.
The 28 semifinalists will present the 15 finalists for consideration for the Class of 2023 on February 9 in Glendale, Arizona by the 49-member Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. Also being considered at this time are linebacker Chuck Howley, defensive lineman Joe Klecko, and cornerback Ken Riley, the senior nominees (prior to the 25-year window for modern-era nominees); and Don Coryell, the Coach/Contributor Committee nominee.
The other semi-finalists for the Class of 2023 are Eric Allen, Jared Allen, Ronde Barber, Anquan Boldin, Henry Ellard, Jahri Evans, London Fletcher, Dwight Freeney, James Harrison, Rodney Harrison, Devin Hester, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Albert Lewis , Darrelle Revis, Steve Smith, Fred Taylor, Joe Thomas, Zach Thomas, Hines Ward, Ricky Watters, Reggie Wayne, Vince Wilfork, Patrick Willis and Darren Woodson.
Fifteen men who have played in Alabama high schools and colleges are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The state Hall of Famers are Robert Brazile (Vigor), Buck Buchanan (Parker), Frank Gatski (Auburn), Kevin Greene (Auburn), John Hannah (Albertville, Alabama), Don Hutson (Alabama), Walter Jones (Aliceville) , Joe Namath (Alabama), Ozzie Newsome (Colbert County, Alabama), Terrell Owens (Benjamin Russell), Ken Stabler (Foley, Alabama), John Stallworth (Tuscaloosa, Alabama A&M), Bart Starr (Sidney Lanier, Alabama), Dwight Stephenson (Alabama) and Derrick Thomas (Alabama).
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.