The Hall’s five newest members complete this year’s special class of 20 — the others were announced in January — that will be formally enshrined Aug. 8 in Canton, Ohio. The five modern-era enshrinees were selected by the board of selectors of the Hall of Fame.
Polamalu, the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, becomes the second safety in as many years (after Ed Reed in 2019) to be inducted in his first year of eligibility, after none had done so since Ken Houston in 1986. With his selection, a player has been chosen in his first year of eligibility for 13 straight seasons.
Polamalu made eight Pro Bowls in leading his Pittsburgh Steelers to three Super Bowl appearances in 12 seasons, winning championships in the 2006 and 2009 seasons. Only 10 other pure safeties are enshrined in Canton, Ohio, but one has been inducted in four straight years, including Kenny Easley in 2017 and Brian Dawkins in 2018.
James won rushing titles in each of his first two NFL seasons in 1999 and 2000, teaming with quarterback Peyton Manning and Hall of Fame wideout Marvin Harrison as the Indianapolis Colts produced one of the NFL’s scariest offenses at the start of the millennium. James posted seven seasons with at least 1,000 rushing yards and made four Pro Bowls while running for 12,246 career yards — 13th on the league’s all-time list.
Bruce ranks fifth in league history in receiving yards (15,208), 13th in receptions (1,024) and 12th in touchdown catches (91). He notched eight 1,000-yard receiving seasons and was part of the iconic “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams teams of the late 1990s — with his game-winning 73-yard touchdown giving the Rams a Super Bowl XXXIV title.
Atwater, a long-time Denver Broncos safety, earned his reputation as one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs in league history, the AFC version of San Francisco’s Ronnie Lott during the 1990s. He made eight Pro Bowls in a nine-season stretch from 1990-98 and spearheaded the Broncos defense to three Super Bowl trips and two championships in 1997-98. It was the 16th year of eligibility for Atwater.
Hutchinson was one of the most dominant offensive linemen of his generation. As a longtime Seattle Seahawk and Minnesota Viking, he made seven consecutive Pro Bowl trips from 2003-09, earning five first-team All-Pro selections. The hulking guard helped clear paths for record-breaking seasons by running backs Shaun Alexander in Seattle (NFL-high 1,880 yards in 2005) and Adrian Peterson in Minnesota (NFL rushing titles with 1,760 in 2008, 2,097 in 2012).
The previously announced Hall of Fame inductees of this year’s class include 10 former players: former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael, former Chicago Bears tackle Jim Covert, former Green Bay Packers safety Bobby Dillon, former Cowboys safety Cliff Harris, former New York Jets tackle Winston Hill, former Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras, former Steelers safety Donnie Shell, former Cleveland Browns receiver Mac Speedie, former Bears defensive end Ed Sprinkle, and two-way lineman Duke Slater, an African-American pioneer in the early years of the NFL.
Former head coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, former league commissioner Paul Tagliabue, ex-New York Giants general manager George Young and NFL Films executive Steve Sabol rounds out the Hall class.