ATLANTA – Years from now, when folks sit around sports bars and water coolers arguing who the greatest tight end and safety of all time are, I can guarantee you Tony Gonzalez and Ed Reed will be popular choices.
Each received the highest honor a football player can get Saturday evening, when along with CB Champ Bailey, the three were selected as first-ballot inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
They are joined in the Hall’s class of 2019 by Modern Era inductees Ty Law and Kevin Mawae, Veterans Committee’s nominee, Johnny Robinson and Contributors Committee nominees Gil Brandt and Pat Bowlen.
Gonzalez's induction is really a formality, as knowledgeable football folks rated him a slam-dunk first-ballot choice from the day he retired.
A Kansas City Chief from 1997-2008 and an Atlanta Falcon from 2009-13, his 1,325 receptions (2nd only to Jerry Rice for a player at any position), 15,127 yards, 4 1,000-yard plus seasons and 14 Pro Bowl selections are all NFL records for a tight end, and his 111 touchdowns are second only to Antonio Gates.
As a seven-time Pro Football Weekly All Pro (10 times 1st or 2nd team AP All Pro), Gonzalez redefined his position as the first of the dominant receiver first, blocker second tight ends.
Reed was a first-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2002 where he stayed until 2012, earning five 1st team All-Pro selections and 3 more 2nd team choices, and a Super Bowl ring his final season as a Raven.
Reed’s 1,590 interception return yards, nine playoff interceptions, three blocked punts returned for TDs and 12 multi-interception games are all NFL records, as is his 107-yard interception return for a TD, the longest ever.
Bailey was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 draft by Washington, where he played until 2003, when he was traded to the Denver Broncos.
Bailey was selected to eight straight Pro Bowls between 2000 and 2007 and four more from 2009-12, and he was a three-time first-team All Pro and second-team All Pro three more times.
A member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2000s, Bailey’s 12 Pro Bowls are an NFL record for a defensive back.
The Patriots' first-round pick in 1995 out of Michigan, Ty Law played 15 seasons with the Pats, Jets, Chiefs and Broncos, but it was the first 10 years of his career in New England where he won three Super Bowl Rings that he established himself as one of the dominant cornerbacks of his era.
Law was selected to five Pro Bowls, finished his career with 53 interceptions, seven touchdowns and was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s.
Mawae was also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 2000s for playing 16 seasons at center in Seattle, with the New York (Jets) and in Tennessee and earning eight Pro Bowl nods, seven first-team All-Pro selections and one more second-team All-Pro selection.
Robinson is one of only 20 players to play all 10 seasons in the American Football League and played 12 seasons in all.
He won three AFL Championships with the Chiefs and Super Bowl IV. Robinson was a six-time AFL All Star at safety, and when Pro Football Weekly named the first-ever combined NFL/AFL All-Pro Team, Robinson was one of the safeties and one of 10 AFL selections.
Bowlen is a lawyer who made his fortune in his family's oil business and then branching out into real estate and the mining industry.
He purchased the Denver Broncos in 1984, and under his guidance as its CEO, the team went on to win seven AFC titles and three Super Bowls.
Brandt was a part-time scout for the Los Angeles Rams from 1955 through 1957 before going to work full time for the 49ers from 1958 to 1959.
In 1960, Brandt was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as their chief talent scout and was eventually named their Vice President of Player Personnel until his retirement in 1988 when Jerry Jones bought the team.
The players he developed won 5 NFC championships, 2 Super Bowls, 13 division championships and had 20 straight winning seasons from 1966-1985.