Three-time All-Pros Julius Peppers and Antonio Gates were chosen as semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2024 in their first year of eligibility.
Peppers and Gates headline a group of 25 modern day semifinalists announced Tuesday by the Hall of Fame from a group of 173 nominees announced in September. The only other player who advanced to the semifinal stage for the first time was running back Tiki Barber.
Eight players who made it to the final stage of 15 in the class of 2023 return as semifinalists this year with Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Torry Holt, Patrick Willis, Willie Anderson and Darren Woodson all looking to get in after falling short a year ago.
The other semifinalists are Eric Allen, Anquan Boldin, Jahri Evans, London Fletcher, Eddie George, James Harrison, Rodney Harrison, Robert Mathis, Steve Smith Sr., Fred Taylor, Hines Ward, Ricky Watters, Reggie Wayne and Vince Wilfork.
The 25 semifinalists will be reduced to 15 finalists before the final voting process in January. The 15 finalists will be trimmed to 10 and then five during the selection meeting early next year. The final five candidates will need to get 80% of the votes from the panel to get into the Hall.
Peppers and Gates were both college basketball players before finding their greatest success in football.
Peppers was one of the league’s most dominant linemen after being picked second overall by Carolina in 2002 following a two-sport career in college at North Carolina.
He had 12 sacks as a rookie and never really slowed down in a 17-year career that included stops in Chicago and Green Bay before ending with the Panthers. He was an All-Pro in 2004, 2006 and 2010.
Peppers finished his career with 159 1/2 sacks — the fourth most since they became official in 1982 — and had 10 seasons with double-digit sacks. Only Hall of Famers Bruce Smith (13) and Reggie White (12) had more.
Gates played only basketball in college before turning into one of the NFL’s top tight ends. He switched to football after going undrafted in basketball.
The Chargers took a chance on him and it paid off in a big way, as he became an All-Pro in just his second season in 2004. He was All-Pro again the next two seasons and went on to have a 16-year career for the team.
Gates finished with 955 catches for 11,841 yards and an NFL record for tight ends with 116 touchdown receptions. Only Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten have more catches or yards as a tight end.
Four finalists previously announced are Buddy Parker in the coaching category, and Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael and Art Powell in the senior category.
They also will get in if they get support from at least 80% of voters.