"I don't think there's any question on either one of 'em," said former San Francisco and Detroit coach Steve Mariucci. "They were exceptional at their positions. They changed the game a little bit, which is what you would hope (for) from a Hall of Famer.
"With Deion, you would game plan for him, stay away from him, not punt the ball to him.
"With Marshall ... you see running backs now being utilized as more than just running backs. They're used as receivers. He was really the first that had that sort of an impact on a game, motioning out of the backfield, lining up as a receiver. Give him the ball on a handoff or a swing pass or a screen or a slant, he could go the distance. He had that kind of speed. He would put pressure on you. You end up with your base defense on the field and all of a sudden they spread out with a running back that's like a receiver and it causes matchup problems for you."
Sanders, a member of the 1990s All-Decade team as both a cornerback and a punt returner, was an All-Pro six times during the first 10 of his 14 seasons. For all his flash and cockiness, Sanders said that he didn't play to be recognized.
"I didn't play this game for the accolades," he said. "I played for a little woman named Connie Hicks to make sure she never had to work another day in her life. I played the game for (my mother whom) I told when I was seven years old that she would never have to work another day. She hasn't had to work since '89."
That's when he debuted with Atlanta before going on to win Super Bowls with San Francisco in 1994 and Dallas in 1995. Sanders was the Defensive Player of the Year for the champion 49ers in the former season when he took a trio of interceptions more than 70 yards to the house. When he retired, Sanders was second in interception return touchdowns and yards on interceptions.
"I played cornerback in high school because my team needed me to and because of Deion," Faulk said. "I told my coach that I would play corner only if I got to guard the best receiver wherever he was on the field. That was because I watched Deion do it. Cornerback was a ho-hum position. He glorified it and made it what it is
Faulk played five fine seasons for Indianapolis but he really exploded into the spotlight after his 1999 trade to St. Louis. He was the catalyst in turning the long-lowly Rams overnight into the Greatest Show On Turf. St. Louis won the Super Bowl that year as Faulk produced a then-record 2,429 yards from scrimmage. He was the MVP in 2000 when he scored 26 touchdowns and was an All-Pro for a third straight season when the Rams won the NFC title in 2001.
"Marshall was so versatile, a guy that (was like) where's Waldo?" said Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson. "Is he going be in the backfield? Is he going to be out in the slot? Is he going to be by the tight end? The matchup headaches ... he caused a lot of defenses a lot of problems."
Said Faulk, " I feel like I did all I could during the 12 years I played. I made a name for myself within the game."
Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis, fourth and fifth in career rushing yards, are also newly eligible for Canton as is 11-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Willie Roaf. NFL Films founder Ed Sabol, defensive end Chris Doleman (fourth all-time in sacks) and linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, the Seniors Committee nominees who were chosen for nine and eight Pro Bowls, respectively, are first-time finalists.
"Curtis had great speed and he was elusive," said Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. "He had power if he needed that. He had a lasting, very productive career. Jerome had power and athleticism. He had a halfback's instincts and a fullback's power. That's a very unusual combination."
Receivers Tim Brown (fourth all-time in catches), Cris Carter (third) and Andre Reed (10th), six-time All-Pro center Dermontti Dawson, defensive ends Richard Dent (sixth all-time in sacks) and Charles Haley (the only player to win five Super Bowl rings), defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy -- the 1992 Defensive Player of the Year for the 2-14 Seattle Seahawks -- and tight end Shannon Sharpe, who retired tops at his positions in catches, yards and touchdowns, are repeat finalists.
Woodson said that Sharpe and Dent are especially deserving. However, no more than five of the 15 modern candidates can be elected by the 44 selectors for the Class of 2011 which can include between four and seven of the 17 finalists.
"If there's only going to be one receiver (selected) which one will it be?" Mariucci said. "Tim Brown had some added value in the return game. We see with the Devin Hesters of the world how important that is. So I suppose if I had to choose one, it would be Tim. But Andre Reed was so good in his time, not just the four Super Bowls, (but) in (Buffalo's) version of the Triplets with (Hall of Famers) Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas. And Cris Carter, a fantastic player, too. I'd like to see them all get in, but I don't think that will be the case this year. But in the next two or three years, they'll all be there."
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