In the wake of many recollections of Kent Hull as a player renewed questions arise about the three-time Pro Bowl center as a Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate. Buffalobills.com provides a closer look at whether Hull is a debatable candidate for enshrinement along with the obstacles that may stand in the way of the great pivot man's candidacy.
For the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2012, Kent Hull, along with 104 other former players make up the preliminary list of nominees. Hull has been a preliminary nominee before, but the franchise's best center has never made it beyond that point.
"He's never been a Hall of Fame semi-finalist and he's never been a finalist," said Joe Horrigan, Vice President of Communications for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Now that's not to say that he will not it's just that when they get to that semi-finalist list there's finally an opportunity for them to be discussed. It's critical that players like Kent get to that semi-finalist list first and then the debate gets more heated giving that player more opportunity for his stock to rise."
"There's not a lot of debate on guys until they get to the final 25," said Pro Football Writers of America President and Hall of Fame selector Mark Gaughan. "Kent without a doubt was a Hall of Fame caliber player. It's going to be tough though because he was on a team with a lot of Hall of Fame caliber players. If he was on a team that didn't have so many big stars he'd have a much better chance."
Marv Levy, James Lofton, Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas have all been enshrined from Buffalo's AFC title teams already over the past 10 years. Bills all-time leading receiver Andre Reed has been a five-time finalist and appears to be the next logical member of those teams to be enshrined.
"I think also when it comes to the Pro Football Hall of Fame we need to get a couple of more Bills in, like Andre Reed and Steve Tasker has been a semifinalist twice, maybe more," said Gaughan, who also makes the presentation to the Selectors for all Buffalo finalists. "Of course the question will definitely be raised, how many players from a team that never won the Super Bowl should get in the Hall of Fame?"
Horrigan believes there are some positions where players tend to get grouped together and it dilutes the candidacy of some potential Hall of Famers.
"Sometimes one of the things that happens to linemen and to defensive backs is they're looked upon as a group," he said. "Rather than take the best tackle, center or guard, they say, 'Here's the best lineman.'"
Gaughan maintains that the Selectors Committee does differentiate between linemen.
"The committee individualizes the top tackles, guards and centers in your era," said Gaughan. "The top two or three tackles usually get in, the top two or three guards usually get in, and maybe the top center gets in. That's generally how it goes."
For Hull's era, his main competition is former Pittsburgh center Dermontti Dawson. Hull was a three-time Pro Bowl center and named 1st Team All-Pro twice in his career. Dawson went to seven Pro Bowls and was a six-time 1st Team All-Pro.
Dawson has also been a Hall of Fame semifinalist three times (2006, 2007, 2008) and a two-time Hall of Fame finalist (2009, 2010).
"Unfortunately for offensive linemen I think one, statistics don't really tell the story on line play and oftentimes linemen move from position to position," said Horrigan. "So really the only barometer is the All-Pro teams. Then it's up to the selectors to do the comparatives that they can and it's a slower process for the non-statistical players."
"If you're a lineman and you're going into the Hall of Fame you probably need numerous first team All-Pro on your resume," said Gaughan. "That being said separating all the players on those Bills teams and the way Pro Bowl and All-Pro voting went just from a technical standpoint Kent is up there with the other Hall of Fame centers."
Gaughan believes that it will be difficult for Hull to get to a final vote, but there is another means by which former players can be enshrined. Every year the Seniors Committee nominates two finalists for enshrinement.
"He probably would have a better chance as a Senior Committee nominee," Gaughan admitted.
Former players do not qualify for a Senior Committee nomination until they are 25 years removed from the end of their career. Hull would qualify in 2021.
Though his former teammates believe he is Hall of Fame worthy, even Kent Hull would tell you he's been bestowed with humbling honors already.
"There's nothing to lament that he's not in the Hall of Fame," Gaughan said. "There are a lot of great players that are not in the Hall of Fame. He's in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He's on the Bills Wall of Fame, and so it'd be hard to say he was sold short. There aren't many guys who are on their NFL team's Wall of Fame. He had an incredible career."
And as Hull said when Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas were enshrined in 2002 and 2007, a part of him was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well.