Julius Peppers and Antonio Gates near Hall of Fame

Julius Peppers and Antonio Gates reached the semi-finals of the 2024 crop of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

Peppers and Gates are the headliners of a group of 25 nominees announced by the Hall of Fame on Tuesday, selected from an initial cohort of 173 nominees last September. The only other player to reach this crucial milestone in his first year of eligibility is running back Tiki Barber.

Eight players who found themselves in the final group of 15 candidates for the 2023 vintage are back in the semi-finals this year. They are Jared Allen, Dwight Freeney, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Torry Holt, Patrick Willis, Willie Anderson and Darren Woodson, all of whom will attempt to be elected after their failure last year.

Other players in the semi-finals include 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.

From the group of 28 candidates in the semi-finals, 15 will advance to the final vote scheduled for January. The group of 15 finalists will then be reduced to 10, then five, during the selection meeting scheduled for early next year. The final five candidates will have to obtain the favors of 80% of the committee of electors in order to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Peppers and Gates excelled in basketball in the American university ranks before achieving glory on the football field.

Peppers was one of the most dominant linemen of his era after being selected by the Carolina Panthers second overall in the 2002 NFL Draft following a two-year career at the University of North Carolina.

As for Gates, he played college basketball before becoming one of the most feared tight ends in the NFL – although he only opted for professional football after being passed over in the draft.

The San Diego Chargers took a gamble on him and they won, as he was named to the NFL All-Star team in his second season in 2004. He was selected to the All-Star team again over the next two seasons, and eventually enjoyed a 16-year NFL career.

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