A big week ahead for Faneca, Nunn

For years, the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee has met the day before the Super Bowl, holed up in a hotel meeting room discussing the accomplishments of the finalists before taking a vote on who will achieve football immortality.

This year, just like with so many other things in the past year, things will be a little different.

When it comes to voting for Steelers guard Alan Faneca as a Modern-Era finalist, and legendary scout Bill Nunn as a Contributor finalist, it will all be virtual.

The selection committee will conduct their annual meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19, meeting virtually this year to select the Hall of Fame Class of 2021, casting their votes remotely and electronically.

"Like the NFL and its 32 teams, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has made several changes to react to the COVID-19 pandemic," said David Baker, the President of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "This year, that meant implementing a virtual process for Selection meetings and voting.

"The Hall used a remote, digital procedure in August to discuss the candidates in the Coach, Contributor and Senior categories, ultimately nominating Bill Nunn as the Contributor Finalist for the Class of 2021.

"On Tuesday, for the first time, the Selectors will elect the Class of 2021 remotely, with Alan Faneca one of the 15 candidates in the Modern-Era Player category. With our partner, Ernst & Young, this digital process will be efficient and secure. The partners will keep the results under wraps until the public reveal at NFL Honors on Feb. 6."

Whether the vote is virtual or in person there is one thing that should be the case, Faneca and Nunn should be members of the Class of 2021.

Faneca, a finalist for the sixth time, was the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1998 and played 10 seasons for the black and gold, and 13 overall in the NFL. He was a member of the Super Bowl XL Championship team and was selected to nine Pro Bowls. Faneca was a six-time All-Pro selection and was named to the Steelers All-Time Team in 2007 and the NFL 2000's All-Decade Team. He is also a member of the Steelers Hall of Honor, inducted in 2018.

"His ability to play that position, dominate at that position, but be athletic enough to move around and travel from the standpoint of pulling as an offensive lineman was rare," said Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis. "Usually when you do it, it doesn't end in success. When Alan pulled, we had a tremendous amount of success with our ability to pull."

Faneca, a first team All-Pro selection an impressive six times (2001-02, 2004-07) and twice a second team selection (2003, 2008), was the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1998 and played 10 seasons for the black and gold (1998-2007), and 13 overall in the NFL (New York Jets 2008-09 and Arizona Cardinals 2010).

"He was an integral part of the run game," said Bill Cowher, his former coach. "The guard position, he almost redefined it. He was a guy who could block at the point of attack, but also block in space. We all remember the big run Willie Parker had in Super Bowl XL. It was really Alan at that point of attack. That was what we were able to do with a guy like him. He was a staple, he was a constant. He set the tone. He was a quiet leader on our football team. Without a doubt he was the heart and soul of the offensive line."

Nunn, who served in multiple roles in the Steelers scouting department beginning in 1967 in a part-time role, and then from 1969-2014, was selected as the Contributor Finalist for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in August.

"I am beyond thrilled to hear Bill Nunn has been selected a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a contributor," said Steelers President Art Rooney II at the time of the announcement. "Bill's contributions to the Steelers were extraordinary over the 46 years he was part of the organization. He was a special person who was a close friend and mentor before his passing in 2014. His lessons and stories are still evident in our everyday work.

"I look forward to hopefully celebrating his induction at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His legacy and career deserve to be recognized with the greatest individual honor in football, and we are excited he was chosen by the Contributor Committee as a finalist."

Nunn joined the Steelers organization in the scouting department in 1968 after a career in the newspaper business, including a sports writer, editor, and then managing editor of The Pittsburgh Courier. Starting in 1950 he selected the newspaper's annual Black College All-American Team, developing relationships that benefited in his scouting career.

Nunn, a member of the Inaugural Class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame and a 2018 Hall of Honor selection, helped the team find talent from Historically Black Colleges and Universities that other teams weren't as familiar with, including L.C. Greenwood from Arkansas AM&N, Mel Blount from Southern, Frank Lewis from Grambling State, Dwight White from Texas A&M-Commerce, Ernie Holmes from Texas Southern, Joe Gilliam from Tennessee State, John Stallworth from Alabama A&M, and Donnie Shell from South Carolina State.

"Bill in my mind was a game-changer for guys in my era that went to Black colleges," said Stallworth, a member of the famed 1974 Steelers draft class that Nunn played a key role in. "Bill was a force in the room for us. Most guys in the past, before us, didn't have anyone to talk about their pedigree, how good they were, what their capabilities were, their talent, what kind of man they were. Bill was a voice in the room for guys in Black colleges in the early years. He paved the way for a lot of guys with the Steelers and other teams to have an opportunity to come in and show what they can do. It opened the door for a lot of guys that came after us."

The Class of 2021 will be introduced during the NFL Honors show the night before Super Bowl LV. The Class of 2021 will be enshrined along with the Class of 2020 in August, because of changes last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Class of 2020 includes former Steelers Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell and Coach Bill Cowher.

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