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Bill Polian named a 2015 Hall of Fame finalist


The Bills might be represented in Canton again next year.

Two longtime NFL general managers, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf, were selected as Contributor finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Polian and Wolf were chosen by the Hall of Fame's Contributor Committee that met Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

If inducted, Polian would become the 10th member of the Bills Wall of Fame to eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Polian and Wolf will join senior nominee Mick Tingelhoff and 15 yet-to-be-named Modern Era finalists from which the Class of 2015 will be selected. The Pro Football Hall of Fame's selection meeting will be held on Jan. 31, 2015, in Phoenix, Arizona, the day before Super Bowl XLIX. Tingelhoff was the nominee of the Seniors Committee that met in Canton in August.

"It's an incredible honor that I never envisioned happening," Polian commented.

Polian is most noted for turning the fortunes of three different teams that included a combined five Super Bowl appearances by the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts. He guided the Bills to four straight AFC Eastern Division titles and earned three straight Super Bowl berths after winning the AFC championship in 1990-92.

As the general manager of the expansion Carolina Panthers, he helped build a team that advanced to the NFC championship in just its second season.

Polian next served as President/General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-2011 during which time the club captured eight division crowns and advanced to a pair of Super Bowls including a win over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.

In all he had a 32-year NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs (1978-1982), Buffalo (1984-1992), Carolina (1995-97), and Indianapolis (1998-2011). He also worked for the National Football League office in 1993 and 1994.

Wolf made his lasting mark as the Executive Vice President/General Manager of the Green Bay Packers and longtime player personnel director for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders.

With the Packers, Wolf almost instantly resurrected one of the NFL's most storied franchises after arriving in Green Bay late in 1991. Over the next decade he transformed Green Bay into a dominant team. The Packers claimed three straight NFC Central Division titles and back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. The 1996 Packers posted the first 16-win season in franchise history that included a thrilling 35-21 win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI.

"What an honor!," Wolf stated moments after learning of his nomination. "I'm overwhelmed. I realize that none of this would be possible without an awful lot of support from a lot of other people. So, for me, this is more an organizational thing than just one individual."

Wolf's NFL career began as a scout for the Raiders in 1963 and he spent 25 seasons in the team's front office during three separate tenures. As a 37-year-old, he was hired as the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager in 1976. The team earned a bid in the NFC championship game by its fourth season. He also headed up the New York Jets personnel operations.

Polian and Wolf were selected by the newly formed Contributor Committee that is comprised of nine members of the overall 46-person selection committee. Through mail vote, the 2015 Contributor nominees were reduced to a final list of 11 candidates (bylaws specify 10 finalists and ties) that were discussed in detail today. A Contributor Nominee is an individual who made outstanding contributions to professional football in capacities other than playing or coaching.

The two Contributor finalists must receive the same 80 percent voting support that is required of all finalists. The Hall's Selection Committee, at its annual meeting in January will consider 18 finalists, including one Senior (Tingelhoff), two Contributors (Polian and Wolf), and 15 Modern Era candidates for a class no smaller than four or larger than eight.

The selection of two Contributors is a result of bylaws modification to the selection process that was approved by the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Trustees this past August. Contributors have previously been part of the Modern Era nomination list that included coaches and players. The change was precipitated by the fact that since 1963, when the Hall of Fame first opened, only 19 Contributors have been elected and 10 of those were elected in the first five Hall of Fame classes, including six as Charter Members.

Like the Senior finalist, the Contributor finalists will now be voted on for election independent of all other finalists.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2015 will be formally enshrined during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival in Canton, Ohio on August 7-9, 2015. The Enshrinement ceremony is televised nationally by the Hall of Fame's broadcast partners, NFL Network and ESPN.

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