The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2024 was revealed Thursday night at NFL Honors in Las Vegas' Resorts World, three days before Super Bowl LVIII.
Below are the members of the Class of 2024:
One of the league's most fearsome pass rushers, whose speed off the edge paired beautifully with the fast turf in Indianapolis, Freeney is headed to Canton in his second year of eligibility. While the Colts of the 2000s were known for their high-powered offense led by Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, Freeney keyed a defense that equally was a problem for the rest of the AFC. Freeney burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2002 with 13 sacks and a league-leading 20 tackles for loss and nine forced fumbles. That season would mark his first of four straight double-digit sack seasons to begin his career -- including an NFL-best 16 in 2004. Freeney employed a devastating spin move that befuddled opposing offensive linemen and helped him tally seven Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections.
One of the most dynamic men with the ball in league history, Hester's wait for the Hall of Fame ended Thursday night on his third attempt as a finalist. Hester heads to Canton as the most accomplished returner in league history. Hester holds the record for punt-return touchdowns with 14 and added five kickoff-return TDs and an additional return TD to claim another league record with 20 overall return touchdowns. To put it simply: Hester, a three-time first-team All Pro and four-time Pro Bowler, was a problem whenever he was back to return a kick. One of Hester's most memorable moments came on the game's biggest stage when he returned the opening kickoff of Super Bowl XLI for a touchdown to give the Bears an early lead over the eventual-champion Colts. Hester also made an impact as a receiver, logging 255 receptions for 3,311 yards and 16 touchdowns in his career.
In an era of dominant wideouts, Johnson established himself as one of the best of his generation despite battling inconsistent play from the quarterback spot while with the Houston Texans. Johnson posted seven seasons of at least 1,000 receiving yards during his 14-year career, including three seasons with more than 1,500 yards. Johnson, one of the most accomplished and celebrated players in Texans history, was beloved by the city where he began his career as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft and where he would go on to spend 14 seasons. Johnson quickly made an impact with a Pro Bowl selection in his second season, but his best years came with Matt Schaub at QB when Johnson lead the league in receiving yards in 2008 and 2009 to earn his two-career All-Pro nods. Johnson will enter Canton in his third year of eligibility with 1,062 career receptions and 70 touchdowns to go with the reputation as one of the league's fiercest competitors of his era.
A two-sport star at the University of North Carolina, Peppers blended his elite size and athleticism to immediately become one of the NFL's premier pass rushers. Peppers won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2002 after he recorded 12 sacks, five forced fumbles and one interception in 12 games for the Carolina Panthers. That season was Peppers' first of nine in which he recorded at least 10 sacks, and while he never led the league in QB takedowns, his consistency led him to retire fourth all time in sacks with 159.5, including a franchise-record 97 in Carolina. Peppers also is the only player to record at least 150 sacks and 10 interceptions (four of which he returned for a TD). Peppers' brilliance (three first-team All-Pro nods) and longevity (he earned a Pro Bowl nod in his 14th season while he was a member of the Packers) gave him the honor of entering Canton in his first year of eligibility.
While Willis' career did not span as long as the average modern Hall of Famer, his impact and greatness is undeniable. Willis earned a whopping five first-team All-Pro honors and made seven Pro Bowls during his eight seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Willis won Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2007 after he led the league with an eye-opening 174 tackles. Willis would go on to register at least 100 tackles in six of his eight seasons (he finished one year with 97 and the other season was cut short to just six games due to injury). When Jim Harbaugh became 49ers head coach in 2011, much of the NFL world got to see Willis' stellar play on the national stage as Willis helped lead a dominant defense that was the engine behind three consecutive trips to the NFC title game. Perhaps due to the length of his career, Willis had to wait out five selection processes to finally hear his name among those inducted to Canton.
One of the foremost linebackers of his generation, Gradishar helmed the vaunted Orange Crush defense that ruled the Rockies in the 1970s and early '80s. Gradishar spent the entirety of his 10-year career with the Denver Broncos, for whom he made seven Pro Bowls and earned two first-team All-Pro selections. Gradishar enters Canton as a senior finalist after being a modern-era finalist in 2003 and 2008. Gradishar also was a senior finalist for the Centennial Slate in 2020, so he will be inducted on his fourth attempt as a finalist. Gradishar was the Broncos' all-time leading tackler with 2,049 when he retired in 1983. He also had 19.5 sacks, 20 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries and four defensive touchdowns. Gradishar's finest season came in 1978 when he won Defensive Player of the Year honors, the year after he helped lead Denver to the franchise's first trip to the Super Bowl.
A long-haired roughneck out of Texas, "Mongo" became one of Chicago's favorite adopted sons and the senior finalist has now become a Hall of Famer. A 1980 third-round pick of the Patriots, McMichael would become a force for the Bears and a standout on one of the NFL's greatest and most revered teams: Chicago's 1985 Super Bowl winner. McMichael was a two-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro with his first Pro Bowl selection coming during the '85 season. He was the embodiment of the Bears' ferocious 46 defense that plundered foes en route to a Super Bowl XX championship. An interior defensive lineman with a phenomenal pass rush, he posted 95 sacks, 847 tackles and 13 forced fumbles across 15 seasons -- 13 in Chicago and one apiece for New England and Green Bay, retiring after after the 1994 season. He had seven years with eight or more sacks -- second all time among defensive tackles. In 2021, McMichael announced he'd been diagnosed with ALS, but he's battled the disease since and has now been recognized for his gridiron glory all those autumns ago.