NFL – Best Special Teams Players Not In The Hall of Fame

06 Aug

From left: Ray Guy, Steve Tasker, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson.

When it comes to special teams, NFL coaches pretty much all preach the same sermon – they are just as important as offense and defense, they are 1/3 of the entire team and practice time should be equal to what offense and defense get, they can win or cost a team games. So, if special teams are that important, why are special teams players consistently ignored at Hall of Fame voting time? There are lots of players who played on special teams who ARE in the Hall, like Lou Groza, Sammy Baugh and Paul Hornung for instance, but they got in due to their play on offense and defense. Baugh was a terrific punter but if he hadn’t been a quarterback he wouldn’t be in the Hall. Groza and Hornung were outstanding placekickers but it was their play at tackle and halfback that got them in. It could be argued that George Blanda’s kicking ability got him elected as much as his QB play, but still, he probably wouldn’t be in if he had only kicked. When Jan Stenerud became the first placekicker to be elected, it was a big deal and the expectation was that his election would open the floodgates for all the other kickers, punters, return men, specialists, etc. to start getting elected. Of course, that didn’t happen. There still isn’t one pure punter in the Hall. And nowadays the “long snapper” is a specialty position. Will there be a day when players are voted in solely as long snappers? To me that’s a stretch, but then again, the position is important enough today that every coach employs one. The first pure punter who should be inducted into Canton has to be the Raiders’ Ray Guy. In fact, the assumption is it’s just a matter of time for him. He is clearly the most outstanding punter of all time and it can be argued that he revolutionized the position.  Speaking of revolutionizing the game, when it comes to the “gunner” position on kick coverage, Steve Tasker of the Bills was the master. If any non-kicking special teams player deserves to be inducted, it is Tasker. He was a demon on kick coverage, a punt and kick-blocking machine and an occasional return man. Tasker was a player opposing teams specifically game-planned for. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson was a dynamic return man with the Falcons and Oilers, known for his outlandish end zone dances and, of course, for wearing white shoes. The fact that he reached the end zone so many times on returns that his end zone dances became legendary tells you all you need to know about his kick return abilities. 

Above from left: Travis Williams, Pete Gogolak (and holder Daryle Lamonica), Mel Gray.

Two other return men who deserve a look are the Packers Travis Williams, who rivaled HOFer Gale Sayers in the 1960s as the NFL’s top return man, and the Cardinals’ Mel Gray. Williams played some at running back and Gray was a decent receiver, but mostly they made their name in the league returning kicks. The father and son combination of Terry and Eric Metcalf  is unique. Both had decent careers as running backs and were similar type players. They both excelled in the kick return game. For historical reasons alone, perhaps Pete Gogolak should get some love from the voters. He was the first soccer-style placekicker. Talk about revolutionizing the game! There isn’t one straight-on placekicker left in football today. The last of the straight-on kickers, Washington’s Mark Mosely, was good enough to be considered for Canton also. In the AFL, players like Gene Mingo, Speedy Duncan, Gino Cappelletti and Jim Turner all excelled at some facet of special teams, or “bomb squads” as they were affectionately called back then.

Above: Reggie Roby (left), Brian Mitchell.

Besides Guy, any conversation about HOF punter possibilities has to include Jerrell Wilson of the Chiefs and Reggie Roby, who punted for various teams, mostly the Dolphins. The fact that Roby wore a watch when he punted infuriated some players and enhanced the notion to some that punters “aren’t real football players.” And of course, that kind of macho thinking has worked against even the greatest punters as far as their chances for getting voted into Canton. One other kick returner who deserves a mention is Brian Mitchell. He was a major threat on returns and also just a general all-around great special teamer, and besides Tasker, the next best choice of non-kicking bomb squadder who is deserving.

  1. Lindsay Trass

    June 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    gr8 resrch bro

  2. Donald Whitmire

    September 29, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    Good post, thank you. I signed up to your rss feed!

  3. Carroll B. Merriman

    September 22, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Ecstatic i came across this site, will make sure to book mark it so i can stop by regularly.

  4. John

    September 11, 2010 at 9:42 am

    hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

  5. replica a lange & sohne

    September 9, 2010 at 3:45 am

    Greetings, I enjoy your article. This is a cool site and I wanted to post a comment to tell you, great job!

  6. Ashley

    September 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    hey, nice blog…really like it and added to bookmarks. keep up with good work

  7. Video Marketing

    September 7, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Is Brady really worth the $58 million extension? Way high IMO.

  8. designer replica handbags

    September 7, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    You have a great article here, really helpful. Very well written I will be bookmarking this website and subscribing to your feed so i can regularly read articles of this quality.

  9. Portland Chiropractic

    September 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    I think the Big Ben suspension reduction was not warrented, if anything it should have been bigger.

  10. wholesale nfl jerseys

    September 4, 2010 at 10:19 am

    really good article. Looking for more in the future.

  11. beijing massage

    September 1, 2010 at 8:18 am

    Thank you! I really appreciate your article, in fact I think you deserve a thumbs up.

  12. Virgilio Haddan

    August 26, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Hey, This is a superb thread. I found you on yahoo. Keep up the work.