The quest to get the late Johnny Sample enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, has taken a fortuitous turn.
According to Saleem Choudhry, vice president of museum and exhibit services for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Sample has been formally nominated for the 2021 induction class.
“It’s too late for him to be nominated for the 2020 class but not for 2021,” said Choudhry.
In August, the Hall of Fame announced that it will increase the number of inductees in 2020 to celebrate the NFL’s 100th anniversary. Ordinarily, it enshrines around eight inductees, but the board of trustees unanimously passed a ruling to raise the number to 20 in a special one-time Centennial Class for 2020.
The process for the Centennial Class will include the election of five modern-era finalists. The selection will start with 100 individuals, then be narrowed to 50, then 25 and then 15. Those 15 will be brought in for Selection Saturday and from there the final five will be chosen.
The Hall of Fame will also select 10 seniors. The 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches will be selected by a special 25-member Blue Ribbon committee. Those 15 choices along with the five other finalists will bring the total of 2020 inductees to 20.
There was an anticipation by some that Sample would make the list for 2020. That didn’t happen but Sample’s credentials make him worthy of consideration.
Sample, who was 67 when he died in 2005 in Philadelphia, won National Football League championships in 1958 and ‘59 with the Baltimore Colts and the American Football League and Super Bowl III championships in the 1968 season with the New York Jets. A hard-hitting, trash-talking defensive back, he started in all three title games.
No professional football player has won championships in the NFL, AFL and Super Bowl. And no one ever will, as the NFL and AFL merged in 1970.
News of his being nominated for induction into the 2021 class was greeted enthusiastically by many.
“This is wonderful news,” said Sample’s son, Barclay. “I’m absolutely excited about this. It’s great news for my family. My dad loved playing. He had an outstanding career. It would be great if he was recognized in the hall. I know its a long process, but we’ve got him nominated. It’s a great start.”
Philadelphia native and Pro Football Hall of Famer Herb Adderly was also happy to learn of Sample’s nomination.
“I have been saying for the longest that Johnny Sample deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Adderly said. “I’m willing to do whatever I can to make it happen.
“Johnny Sample was a shut down corner. Period. He locked receivers down and they didn’t make any catches. I know how good he was. I played against. I saw what he could do. He should’ve been in [the Pro Football Hall of Fame].”
Sample was a controversial player who didn’t hold his feelings back. He spoke what was on his mind during a time when it wasn’t the thing for an African-American superstar to do so. In doing so, he may have alienated some.
“That’s just the way Johnny was,” Adderly said. “You had to respect him because he meant what he said. He didn’t back down. He was truthful which many people didn’t like.
“This nomination is big. Hopefully it will lead to his getting into the Hall. He definitely deserves to be there. That’s for sure.”
The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinions on phillytrib.com.