The Pro Football Hall of Fame has announced that their Seniors Committee has whittled down their pool of senior candidates for the 2023 class to 25 names, which includes former Green Bay Packers Sterling Sharpe (receiver, 1988-1994), Mark Clayton (receiver, 1993), Cecil Isbell (back, 1938-1942) and LaVern Dilweg (end, 1927-1934.) The Coach and Contributor Committee has moved forward with 29 candidates, which also feature three former Packers: former head coach Mike Holmgren (1992-1998), former scout and business manager Jack Vainisi (1950-1960) and former Green Bay sportswriter/Packers public relations director and historian Lee Remmel. Remmel is the only one of the 29 candidates who advanced that comes from a public relations background, the title he held for the Packers from 1974 to 2004.
To claim Clayton as a “former Packer” almost feels disingenuous, as only 331 of his career 8,974 receiving yards came in his single season in Green Bay, but Isbell, Dilweg and Sharpe all have strong ties with the franchise.
Isbell was a first- or second-team All-Pro with the Packers in all five years that he played professional football. After leading the league in passing touchdowns in 1941 and 1942, he took a coaching position with the Purdue Boilermakers in college football and became the team’s head coach just a year later. After three years on the job, he would return to professional football as the head coach of the Baltimore Colts.
Dilweg was named a first- or second-team All-Pro eight times over his career, won three straight NFL championships from 1929 to 1931 and was named to the 1920s All-Decade Team by the league. Dilweg also practiced law during his playing days and represented Wisconsin’s 8th district in the U.S. House of Representatives for one term. His grandson, Anthony Dilweg, was drafted by the Packers in the third round of the 1989 draft and played two years for the team.
Sharpe made three All-Pro lists and five Pro Bowls while with the Packers despite his career being cut short due to a neck injury. In just seven years, Sharpe was able to record 8,134 receiving yards and 65 touchdowns. In his final season of play, Sharpe posted an 18-touchdown effort which was at the time the second-best mark all-time behind Jerry Rice (22) in 1987.
The Professional Football Researchers Association publishes a “Hall of Very Good” project that features 10 new players or coaches each year who are prime candidates to make the Hall of Fame, but at the time of publishing have yet to be voted in. This project started in 2003 and so far 26 of the players and coaches that they’ve named have ascended from the Hall of Very Good to being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Dilweg made the list in 2005, Isbell in 2008 and Sharpe in 2020. They look to join three former Packers, Bobby Dillon (2011), Jerry Kramer (2003) and Dave Robinson (2004), who were named to the Hall of Very Good and eventually made it to Canton.
Holmgren has not been co-signed by the PFRA, but posted a 75-37 record in Green Bay that saw the Packers bring home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXI. He left Green Bay in 1999 to take a dual head coach-general manager role with the Seattle Seahawks, where he coached the team to a 86-74 record and took the team to Super Bowl XL.
Per the Pro Football Hall of Fame, up to three senior candidates will be added to the hall of fame on August 16th. The hall of fame has expanded senior classes from their typical one induction per class to three per class for the next three classes in an attempt to free up the backlog of senior candidates. One coach or contributor will be added to the hall of fame a week later on August 23rd.