SYRACUSE, N.Y. (SU ATHLETICS) – Legendary pass rusher Dwight Freeney is one step closer to the hall of fame.
He was named as 1-of-15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday, in his first year on the ballot. The seven-time Pro Bowl selection and Super Bowl Champion is now one step from becoming the ninth ‘Cuse alumni to reach the hall of fame, which would move Syracuse into a tie for fifth for most selections.
The 15 finalists are: Jared Allen, Willie Anderson, Ronde Barber, Freeney, Devin Hester, Torry Holt, Andre Johnson, Albert Lewis, Darrelle Revis, Joe Thomas, Zach Thomas, DeMarcus Ware, Reggie Wayne, Patrick Willis and Darren Woodson.
Freeney, who is 18th in NFL history with 125.5 career sacks, spent 11 seasons (2002-12) with the Indianapolis Colts. He also played for the San Diego Chargers (2013-14), Arizona Cardinals (2015), Atlanta Falcons (2016), Seattle Seahawks (2017) and Detroit Lions (2017) during his career.
Freeney made an instant impact for the Colts after they selected him with the 11th overall pick in 2002. He recorded 13 sacks as rookie, the first of four straight seasons with at least 11 quarterback takedowns. In 2004, he led the NFL with 16 sacks. The next season, Freeney totaled 11 more sacks and six forced fumbles on his way to AFC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
In 2006, Freeney helped the franchise capture its second Super Bowl title, beating the Chicago Bears 29-17 in Super Bowl XLI. He appeared in two more Super Bowls during his career, one with the Colts after the 2009 season, and another with the Falcons.
At Syracuse, Freeney was just as dominant as he was in the pros. The Bloomfield, Connecticut native racked up 34 career sacks from 1998-2001 and set the Orange single-game record by sacking Virginia Tech’s Michael Vick 4.5 times in 2000.
As a senior in 2001, Freeney turned in one of the finest campaigns by a defensive player in program history. He led the nation with a school-record 17.5 sacks. He also forced eight fumbles. For his efforts, Freeney was named a consensus All-American and the BIG EAST co-Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a finalist for the Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik Awards.
Eleven of the 17 players ahead of Freeney on the NFL’s all-time sack list are already in the hall of fame. Two of the remaining six aren’t eligible yet, and two more are finalists this year with Freeney (Allen and Ware).
Should Freeney be selected, he’ll join Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, Al Davis, Marvin Harrison, Floyd Little, John Mackey, Art Monk and Jim Ringo as Orange alums in the Hall of Fame. Syracuse’s eight current members ties with Alabama for the seventh-most honorees. If Freeney makes the cut, ‘Cuse will move into a tie with Pittsburgh and Miami for fifth, and also tie for the lead among ACC institutions. Notre Dame and USC have the most selections all-time with 13 each.
The slate of candidates in the Modern-Era Player category will be considered when the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee meets virtually prior to Super Bowl LVII. The Class of 2023 will be unveiled publicly Feb. 9 during the “NFL Honors presented by Invisalign” broadcast from Phoenix on NFL Network, NBC and Peacock.