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Sanders, Haley Are Hall of Fame Finalists

Deion Sanders and Charles Haley, cornerstones of the Cowboys' defense in the 1990s, are one step closer to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sanders and Haley are among 15 modern-era finalists for election into the Class of 2011. Haley was a finalist last year, and this year Sanders is among five first-year eligible players: Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf.

The Hall's Selection Committee will meet in North Texas on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011, the eve of Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium.

Although there is no set number for any class of enshrinees, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's current ground rules stipulate that between four and seven new members will be selected each year. No more than five modern-era nominees can be elected in a given year and a class of six or seven can only be achieved if one or both senior nominees are elected.

Sanders, Haley and the rest of the modern-era finalists (including one contributor, NFL Films founder Ed Sabol) join two senior nominees: former Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Hanburger and former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Les Richter. To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80 percent.

Sanders won two Super Bowl titles with the 49ers and Cowboys (1995-99) and is widely regarded as one of the NFL's all-time great cornerbacks. A multi-talented athlete (he played on five Major League Baseball teams) and a true "shutdown" corner, Sanders made eight Pro Bowls and won the league's Defensive Player of the Year award in 1994 with the 49ers. He had nine career returns for touchdowns and nine career interceptions for touchdowns.

A five-time Pro Bowl defensive end with the Cowboys and 49ers, Haley won an NFL-record five Super Bowls in 13 NFL seasons, including three with the Cowboys from 1992-96. He finished with 100.5 sacks and was viewed as the missing link to the Cowboys' defensive renaissance in the 1990s.

The Cowboys have 12 directly-associated members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Tony Dorsett, wide receiver Bob Hayes, wide receiver Michael Irvin, head coach Tom Landry, defensive tackle Bob Lilly, defensive back Mel Renfro, president/general manager Tex Schramm, running back Emmitt Smith, quarterback Roger Staubach, defensive tackle Randy White and offensive tackle Rayfield Wright.

Aikman (2006), Wright (2006), Irvin (2007), Hayes (2009) and Smith (2010) are the most recent inductees. Unlike baseball, Pro Football Hall of Fame members are not inducted with a particular team.

This year's 17 finalists (15 modern-era and two senior nominees) are Sanders, Haley, Bettis, Faulk, Martin, Roaf, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Dermontti Dawson, Richard Dent, Chris Doleman, Cortez Kennedy, Andre Reed, Shannon Sharpe, Sabol, Hanburger and Richter.

* @robphillips3 (Twitter)

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