The Pro Football Hall of Fame seniors selection committee revealed its two candidates to be included on the ballot for the next class, and former Lawrence High, Kansas University and San Diego Chargers great John Hadl did not make the cut.
"I'm obviously very disappointed, and the reason is all my friends took a lot of their time to try to make it happen, obviously it didn't happen," Hadl said.
Hall of Fame wide receiver Lance Alworth, Hadl's touchdown partner with the Chargers, and longtime friend Tom Black, a Lawrence native and a business partner of Alworth's, have done a great deal of lobbying on Hadl's behalf in recent years, and Hadl's first reaction was disappointment for them.
The seniors committee again bypassed Hadl, this time in favor of Emmitt Thomas, who had 58 interceptions for the Kansas City Chiefs, and the late Marshall Goldberg, a two-way player for the Chicago Cardinals in the 1940s.
Thomas and Goldberg will be among 17 names on the ballot when votes are cast on Super Bowl eve, Feb. 2. A change in bylaws this year increases from six to seven the maximum number of candidates who can be elected. Thomas and Goldberg are not ensured election, but in the four years since two senior candidates have been nominated, seven of the eight players gained election. Late, great Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Bob Hayes was the only exception.
Hadl, an All-American at halfback and quarterback for KU, threw 244 touchdown passes in his NFL career, more than 13 modern-era Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Just five modern-era Hall of Fame quarterbacks threw more than Hadl's 33,503 passing yards.
Hadl's failure to get to a Super Bowl, coupled with the selection committee's efforts to elect more candidates from non-glamour positions again worked against Hadl's chances.
"Everybody who gets in there is lucky to be there," Hadl said. "They're all great players."
Hadl sounded deflated, but not defeated.
"It's not over yet," Hadl said. "Who knows? I can't say I'm not disappointed."
For Thomas, the coming months will be packed with suspension until he learns his fate.
"I thought there was no way I'd ever get a chance," Thomas told the Associated Press. "Just to be mentioned with these guys who are already in is a great honor. Whatever comes from it, it's still a great honor."
Thomas, who played for the Chiefs for 13 seasons, coaches defensive backs for the Atlanta Falcons in his 26th season as an assistant coach for six NFL teams. Signed by the Chiefs as a free agent from Bishop College, Thomas can become the sixth player enshrined from the Chiefs' team that defeated the favored Minnesota Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV. Bobby Bell, Buck Buchanan, Len Dawson, Willie Lanier, and Jan Stenerud, as well as coach Hank Stram, all are enshrined in Canton, Ohio.
Goldberg, who died in 2006 at the age of 88, played for Pittsburgh in college, and played eight seasons for the Cardinals before retiring in 1948. As a pro, he rushed for 1,644 yards and 11 touchdowns in 77 games, and intercepted 19 passes. He led the league in kickoff returns in 1941 and 1942.