Eddie DeBartolo Jr. has been named as one of the 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The former San Francisco 49ers owner is a first-time finalist.
Three former 49ers, Charles Haley, Kevin Greene and Larry Allen, were also among the 15 finalists that include: running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, wide receiver Cris Carter, owner Art Modell, tackle Jonathan Ogden, coach Bill Parcells, wide receiver Andre Reed, guard Will Shields, defensive end Michael Strahan, defensive back Aeneas Williams and senior committee nominees Curley Culp and Dave Robinson.
Predictably, the first-time inclusion of the beloved former 49ers owner fueled the greatest reaction on social media following the Friday morning announcement.
“Congratulations to Eddie DeBartolo Jr. for being named a ProFB HOF finalist again,” tweeted former 49ers offensive lineman Randy Cross, a three-time Super Bowl champion with the 49ers. “He was the most dominant NFL owner ever only 1 w/5 rings.”
If not for Twitter’s 140-character limit, Cross would have surely gone into greater detail on his former boss. Fortunately, NFL Network’s “A Football Life” series documented the memorable career of the former 49ers owner.
DeBartolo owned the 49ers from 1977-2000 and led the organization to its five Super Bowl Championships. The ultimate “player’s owner,” DeBartolo was renowned for giving his players first-class accommodations while taking an interest in their lives away from the field.
From 1981 to 1988, not including the strike-shortened 1982 season, the 49ers averaged of 13 wins per seasons, including playoff victories.
Even more impressive was the prolific postseason performances from DeBartolo’s teams.
During his tenure, the 49ers won 13 divisional titles, made 16 playoff appearances and advanced to the conference championships 10 times.
Oh, and DeBartolo’s teams won five Super Bowls, becoming the first franchise to win five World Championships. DeBartolo still stands as the only owner with five Vince Lombardi trophies.
Now, DeBartolo will have to wait three weeks to find out if he’ll be receiving a gold Hall of Fame jacket. The 15 modern-era finalist will learn their fate in New Orleans on Feb. 2, one day before Super Bowl XLVII.
There, the Hall of Fame selection committee will narrow the list down to the final Class of 2013. The 46-person committee will trim the list down to four to seven new members.
DeBartolo joins Greene and Allen as first-time finalists. Allen, an 11-time Pro Bowl guard, is in his first year of eligibility after finishing the final two seasons of a 12-year career with the 49ers.
Haley, a five-time Super Bowl champ with the 49ers and Cowboys, is a finalist for the third consecutive year. Former 49ers running back Roger Craig, a finalist in 2010, did not advance from the 27-man semifinalist group.
Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr.
Owner … Notre Dame … 1977-2000 San Francisco 49ers … Purchased 49ers in 1977 with vision to create top-notch organization, on and off field … Known as a "players’ owner,” led franchise to unprecedented winning during tenure … In 1979, hired Bill Walsh as team’s head coach, drafted quarterback Joe Montana, and created atmosphere conducive to winning … Fortunes of franchise changed soon thereafter … In 1981, 49ers finished 13-3 to claim NFC Western Division title and won hard fought playoff battles with New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and capped the year with a thrilling 26-21 victory over Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI … DeBartolo infused team roster with talent that resulted in San Francisco enjoying amazing string of winning seasons … Team averaged 13 wins per season, including playoffs, during a span from 1981 to 1998 (not including strike-shortened 1982 season). During DeBartolo’s ownership team claimed 13 division titles, made 16 playoff appearances, advanced to NFC championship game 10 times, and was first franchise ever to win five Super Bowls (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, XXIX) … Franchise posted the best winning percentage in NFL in both the decades of the 1980s and 1990s … Was named NFL Man of the Year by Football News, 1989 as the nation’s top sports executive … DeBartolo was also highly respected inside NFL circles and served on league’s realignment and expansion committees … Born November 6, 1946 in Youngstown, Ohio.
Guard/Tackle … 6-3, 325 … Sonoma State, Butte Junior College (CA) … 1994-2005 Dallas Cowboys, 2006-07 San Francisco 49ers … 14 seasons, 203 games … Selected by Cowboys in 2nd round (46th player overall) of 1994 draft … Versatile, played every position on offensive line except center during 12 seasons with Dallas … Led way in second season for Emmitt Smith who set Cowboys’ franchise record with 1,773 yards … Started at right guard in two NFC championship games and Super Bowl XXX victory … Named NFL Alumni’s Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1997 and the NFL Players Association NFC Lineman of the Year twice (1996-97) … Named first-team All-Pro seven straight years … First-team All-NFC six times, second-team once … Moved to tackle late in 1997 and entire 1998 season, earned All-Pro honors at position … Signed as free agent with San Francisco in 1996 … First season with 49ers led way for
Linebacker/Defensive End … 6-3, 247 … Auburn … 1985-1992 Los Angeles Rams, 1993-95 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1996, 1998-99 Carolina Panthers, 1997 San Francisco 49ers … 15 seasons, 228 games … Selected by Rams in 5th round (113th player overall) in 1985 draft ... Played primarily on special teams as rookie, only season he didn’t register a sack … Did not have any starts in second season, but played in all 16 games and managed seven sacks … Added 6.5 sacks in 1987 and by fourth season was bona fide pass rusher for Rams, registering career-high 16.5 sacks, including career-best 4.5 sacks in win over 49ers in season finale that clinched playoff spot for Rams … Following year matched his 16.5 sacks total … Had double-digit sack totals 10 times, second in record book at the time … Only time missed recording 10 sacks in any of last eight seasons was 1995 when he had team-leading nine sacks for Steelers … Named to Pro Bowl five times (once with the Rams, twice with Steelers and Panthers) … Selected first-team All-Pro, 1989 with Rams, 1994 with Pittsburgh and 1996 with Carolina … Captured league sack title twice, 1994 and 1996 … A member of NFL’s All-Decade Team of 1990s … Played in six conference championship games and one Super Bowl … Led team in sacks 11 times and amassed 160 total sacks, third all-time at time of retirement … Also had three safeties, 26 opponent fumble recoveries, and five interceptions … Born July 31, 1962 in New York, New York.
Defensive End/Linebacker … 6-5, 242 … James Madison … 1986-1991, 1999 San Francisco 49ers, 1992-96 Dallas Cowboys … 12 seasons, 169 games … Selected by 49ers in 4th round (96th player overall) in 1986 draft … Only player in NFL history to play on five winning Super Bowl teams (XXIII, XXIV, XXVII, XXVIII, XXX) … Began career at linebacker and led 49ers in sacks in each of first six seasons … Recorded four double-digit sack totals with 49ers including 12 as rookie and career-high 16 in 1990 … Moved to defensive end after trade to Dallas … Added two more double-digit sack seasons, 1994, 1995 … Suffered serious back injury, limited to just five games, 1996 … Retired after undergoing surgery … After a two-year hiatus, signed with 49ers as backup defensive end for two playoff games in 1998 … In 1999 came back for final season, added three sacks to finish career with 100.5 … Twice named NFC Defensive Player of the Year (1990, 1994), voted to five Pro Bowls, named All-Pro twice, once as linebacker, once as defensive end … Played in six NFC championship games over seven seasons … Starting at left outside linebacker in 49ers 1988, 1989, 1990 championship games; at right defensive end in Cowboys’ 1992, 1993, 1994 conference championships … Member of 10 division championship teams during his 12 seasons … Born January 6, 1964 in Gladys, Virginia.