Steve Smith, Devin Hester top 122 nominees for Pro Football Hall of Fame

CANTON, Ohio — The first-year nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 contain some electric performers on offense and defense.

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Longtime Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, kick returner Devin Hester and receivers Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson were among the 10 first-timers named to the modern era ballot for enshrinement in Canton, Ohio, the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday.

Offensive linemen Jake Long and Nick Mangold, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, defensive linemen Robert Mathis and Vince Wilfork, and defensive back Antonio Cromartie also were included on the ballot.

The roster of nominees includes 65 offensive players, 46 defensive players and 11 special team stars, according to NFL.com.

Finalists from 2021 renominated for next year are wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Torry Holt; offensive tackle Tony Boselli; defensive end Jared Allen; defensive tackle Richard Seymour; linebackers Sam Mills and Zach Thomas; and defensive backs Ronde Barber and LeRoy Butler, the Hall of Fame said.

Previously selected as a senior finalist was wide receiver Cliff Branch, according to The Associated Press. The contributor finalist is former referee and league officiating chief Art McNally, while the coach finalist is Dick Vermeil, who coached the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl XV and won Super Bowl XXXIV with the St. Louis Rams.

The list of modern-era nominees will be trimmed to 25 semifinalists in November and to 15 finalists in January, the Hall of Fame said. The inductees will be announced on the eve of Super Bowl LVI.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021 will be inducted in Canton in August 2022.