SAN FRANCISCO – Joe Horrigan, the executive vice president of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has seen numerous San Francisco 49ers earn their way into the NFL's hallowed grounds of immortality.
Horrigan could very well welcome another representative for the franchise the night before Super Bowl 50. Edward DeBartolo Jr., the 49ers five-time Super Bowl-winning former owner, is this year's contributor candidate for the Class of 2016. DeBartolo needs a passing vote of 80 percent to join many of the players he brought to San Francisco.
"It's never for sure," Horrigan told 49ers.com from Super Bowl's Radio Row. "One thing I've learned is that when I think I know something, I don't. But I will tell you this, Mr. DeBartolo has been a strong candidate at both what we call a modern-era candidate … and he's been in the room, so to speak, more than twice."
As a three-time Hall of Fame finalist (2012,13,14), DeBartolo's odds of earning a gold jacket have rapidly improved, according to Horrigan.
"When you get to be a finalist two times or more, there's an 85 percent chance that you'll eventually be elected," the EVP said. "Now that we have a contributor category as a separate category, he's going in as a singular candidate from that group.
"I think that enhances his opportunities this year, and I'm very optimistic for him."
DeBartolo's presented a handful of San Francisco's legendary players into Canton, Ohio. The former owner from Youngstown, Ohio, continues to make his presence felt in his home state.
DeBartolo's involvement in the Hall of Fame is not lost on Horrigan.
"It seems every time a 49ers goes in, he's asked to be a presenter because he's had such an impact on their lives," Horrigan said. "We've had a great relationship with 'Eddie D' at the Hall of Fame for that relationship alone."
Horrigan added that the contributor candidate sounds like a perfect distinction for a succesful owner like DeBartolo, who led the 49ers to 16 playoff appearances in an 18-season period.
"It really is somebody who does something for the game that is above and beyond," Horrigan said. "I think (his) legacy is not just winning, but community, team and leadership."
DeBartolo will know his Hall of Fame fate this Saturday at the NFL Honors award show.
Horrigan said he's pleased to see how the Hall of Fame announcement ceremony has grown over the years.
Horrigan is also well aware of what DeBartolo's potential induction could mean for two states, California and Ohio.
"Our roots and heritage and connection to San Francisco in Canton are deep," the EVP said. "And then enter the DeBartolos, they're from Youngstown, Ohio, which is just a 45-minute jaunt up the road for us to Youngstown, so we know the family very well.
"We hope we'll have another 49ers Hall of Famer this weekend."