The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced their senior candidates for the 2023 class on Wednesday: Chuck Howley, Joe Klecko and Ken Riley. Riley, who is going in as a player, spent two years as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers in 1984 and 1985 and is the only player who advanced to the final stage of the senior Hall of Fame voting process who has any ties to the Packers.
Originally, the Pro Football Hall of Fame named 25 semifinalists for their senior committee to consider in early July, which included former Packers Sterling Sharpe (receiver 1988-1994), Mark Clayton (receiver, 1993), Cecil Isbell (back, 1938-1942) and LaVern Dilweg (end, 1927-1934.) Sharpe and Isbell advanced to the finalist stage later that month, where the 25 candidates were cut down to just 12. It was somewhat surprising that Dilweg, an All-Decade Team end who made eight All-Pro teams, did not advance, as he’s just one of two players who the Pro Football Researchers Organization officially support for induction into the Hall of Fame.
According to the release the Pro Football Hall of Fame published, Sharpe, along with Randy Gradishar and Bob Kuechenberg, advanced to the stage where 12 players were shaved down to six names. The Hall of Fame can induct up to three senior players, up from just one, over the next three classes (through 2025) due to the expanded emphasis the Hall of Fame has placed on senior candidates. While Sharpe, among others, continues to wait, there’s a good chance the changes to the Hall of Fame’s senior induction process will speed up Sharpe’s path into football’s immortality. Maybe by 2024, Sharpe will join LeRoy Butler in Canton.
Acme Packing Company’s own Evan “Tex” Western wrote about the merits of Sharpe and the reasoning for him to be inducted into Hall of Fame last month, including this quote from his brother, Shannon, during his own induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015:
My big brother Sterling. I’m the only player of 267 men that’s walked through this building to my left that can honestly say this. I’m the only pro football player that’s in the Hall of Fame and I’m the second-best player in my own family. If fate had dealt you a different hand, there’s no question, there’s absolutely no question in my mind that we would be the first brothers to be elected to the Hall of Fame.
(To) the 44 men and women that I thanked and congratulated earlier for bestowing this prestigious honor upon me, all I do is ask. All I can do is ask, in the most humblest way I know how, is that the next time you go into that room or you start making a list, look at Sterling Sharpe’s accomplishments for (a) seven-year period of the guys that’s in the Hall of Fame at the receiver position and the guys that have the potential to be in this building ... the next time you go in that room, think about Sterling Sharpe’s numbers for seven years.
The three players who advanced as senior candidates will now move to the last step of the Hall of Fame process when the selection committee votes yes/no on the senior candidates in January. If the players, individually, receive 80 percent approval by the committee, they will become members of the 2023 Pro Football Hall of Fame class.
Beyond the senior committee, another former Packer, head coach Mike Holmgren, is still a candidate to make the 2023 class under the Coach/Contributor process. He, along with 11 other candidates, will be picked apart by the Coach/Contributor Committee next week, when they will choose a single candidate to propose to the full committee in January.