Tony Boselli, Richard Seymour headline Pro Football Hall of Fame 2022 induction: ‘Football heaven opens up’

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Wide receiver Cliff Branch, offensive tackle Tony Boselli and defensive lineman Richard Seymour headlined the 2022 class inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. Linebacker Sam Mills, safety LeRoy Butler, defensive lineman Bryant Young, coach Dick Vermeil and official Art McNally rounded out the eight-man class.

This year’s class is unique because it features no player that was eligible for the first time, while every modern-day inductee waited no less than five years and as long as 20 years to be voted in.

Butler, who played 12 seasons with the Green Bay Packers and won a Super Bowl in 1996, spoke first at the induction ceremony.

“When you play for the Green Bay Packers, a lot of doors open up,” Butler said. “When you win a Super Bowl, all doors open up. But when you make the Hall of Fame, football heaven opens up.”

Butler’s 38 interceptions rank fourth in Packers history, and he earned four first-team All-Pro selections during his career.

Boselli was the first player to be drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the No. 2 pick in 1995. On Saturday, he became the first player in franchise history to be enshrined in Canton. He went to five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1996 to 2000 and was a first-team All-Pro three times. The offensive tackle only played 91 games over seven NFL seasons due to injury but helped Jacksonville advance to AFC Championship Games in 1996 and 1999.

Mills made five Pro Bowls in a 12-year career with the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers. The linebacker recorded seven seasons of more than 100 tackles combined.

In 2005, Mills died from cancer complications at age 45. This was his final year on the modern-era ballot. Mills’ wife, Melanie Mills, honored him with a touching tribute during Saturday’s ceremony and quoted his famous phrase “keep pounding,” which became the Panthers’ official slogan.

“Thank you for this honor, for believing in Sam and for helping to keep his story alive,” Melanie Mills said. “Keep pounding, everyone. That’s what Sam would want you to do.”

Seymour was an integral part of three Super Bowl title teams with the New England Patriots, earning three consecutive first-team All-Pro selections from 2003 to 2005 and finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2003. He recorded 57 1/2 sacks over a 12-year career with New England and the Oakland Raiders.

Branch helped lead the Raiders to three Super Bowl appearances — XI, XV and XVIII — with a victory in each. He received first-team All-Pro nods three times (1974-76) and was voted to four Pro Bowls (1975-77, 1978).

Young recorded 89 1/2 sacks over 14 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, playing a key role as a rookie on San Francisco’s 1994 Super Bowl team. He was a first-team All Pro in 1996 when he recorded a career-best 11 1/2 sacks.

Vermeil led the Philadelphia Eagles to an NFC title in 1980 and an appearance in Super Bowl XV and stepped away from the team after the 1982 season. The Rams hired him in 1997 and won Super Bowl XXXIV with “The Greatest Show on Turf” in 1999. He tallied an overall record of 126-114-0.

The “Father of Instant Replay,” McNally introduced the system to the NFL through his leadership and instant replay has become an accepted part of the game which has spread to all major sports in America. He became the first official in NFL history enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

For more on the 2022 induction ceremony, follow The Athletic’s live blog of Saturday’s festivities.

(Top photo of Richard Seymour: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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