One first appeared on a trading card during the Kennedy administration and got in for his coaching skills. Another is most famous for one big play. Three were in the same draft class. Another can barely be found on trading cards at all.
The latest news from Canton, OH means we’re adding some new members on the list of Pro Football Hall of Fame rookie cards.
Here’s a look at the 2021 class and their cards.
The top pick in the 1998 draft just looked like a potential all-time great from the start and Manning didn’t disappoint. Smart with a strong, accurate arm, Manning won five MVP awards during his 18-year career. He threw for 71,940 yards and 539 touchdowns with the Colts and Broncos. His sense of humor made him popular off the field, too.
Manning’s 1998 rookie cards have always been in demand and he’s got a lot of them. The NFL trading card landscape included multiple manufacturers during the late 1990s. His Contenders Rookie Ticket autographs usually dominate the conversation with high grade examples selling for huge prices but his standard Topps and Topps Chrome cards have also skyrocketed in recent months.
Editor’s Note: Selling that PSA 10 Topps rookie for $110 after Manning’s retirement was not one of my most memorable moves.
One of only two players (with Hall of Famer Marcus Allen) to win Heisman Trophy, AP (Defensive) Rookie of the Year, AP (Defensive) Player of the Year and a Super Bowl title in his career, Woodson was taken fourth overall in 1998, three spots behind Manning. A Super Bowl champion with the Packers a decade ago, Woodson was first player in NFL history with 50 career interceptions and 20 sacks.
Like Manning, Woodson rookie cards are plentiful, with a checklist of 40+ cards, not counting all of the parallels and inserts. Illustrating how box content has changed since 1998, Woodson has only one autographed rookie card (1998 Bowman).
At 35, “Megatron” is the youngest of the new Hall of Famers, by far. Drafted second overall by the Lions, his nine-year career as a wide receiver was short but productive. Seldom surrounded by other great players and never able to enjoy much team success, Johnson was still considered one of the all-time greats at his position. At the time of his retirement in 2015, he held NFL records for receiving yards in a season (1,964 yards in 2012) and most consecutive games with a 100 or more receiving yards (8).
Johnson rookie cards total more than three dozen different issues as Topps, Donruss and Upper Deck all still enjoyed league licensing at the time. He has several autographed cards if you want to go that route, but the most action is usually centered around his regular Topps Chrome and the various Refractor parallels.
The lone Canton newcomer from the junk wax era, Lynch was a third round pick who took a few years to become a star in Tampa Bay’s defense, but once he did, few were better. He made the Pro Bowl nine times and led the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in 2002 before moving on to Denver and having an impact there. He was credited with 90 or more tackles in a season nine times.
Now the GM of the 49ers, Lynch rookie cards include 1993 Bowman #298; Topps #230; Upper Deck SP #259 and Pro Set #431.
Also a member of a strong 1998 draft class, Faneca was a dominating run blocker, who led offensive lines that finished among the NFL’s top 10 in rushing 11 times in 13 seasons. He was first team All-Pro six times, blocked for nine different 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers.
He has cards and autographs in the 1998 Press Pass pre-draft set while his official rookie card didn’t arrive until Upper Deck put him in its 2002 XL set (#362). There’s a Holoview version in addition to his regular card.
An undrafted free agent, Pearson signed with Dallas in 1973. He retired as the Cowboys’ all-time leader for receptions (489) and receiving yards (7,822). A member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 70s, Pearson had a reputation for making big plays when it mattered, with 68 receptions for 1,131 yards (16.6 average) and 8 TDs in 22 postseason games. He famously caught Roger Staubach’s bomb late in the 1975 divisional playoff game at Minnesota, giving rise to the term “Hail Mary.”
Pearson was elected 37 years after his retirement as a player and the moment he found out was pretty special…
Former Cowboys WR Drew Pearson is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame pic.twitter.com/3nWIakispf
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) February 7, 2021
His 1975 Topps rookie cards have always been popular with legions of Cowboys collectors but will now go to another level, joining an impressive crop of first year cards in the set that already included Dan Fouts, Lynn Swann, Mel Blount, Rocky Bleier and Joe Theismann, among others. Pearson also appears in the 1975 Wonder Bread football set.
Flores’ regular season coaching record was just 97-87 but when he had talent, he usually turned it into a championship contender. The former University of the Pacific quarterback led the Raiders to wins in Super Bowl XV and XVIII. He led Raiders teams won 11 or more games in a season four times.
The Hall of Fame election will likely give his 1961 Topps and Fleer rookie cards a bit of a bump, but they’ve always been favored by Raiders collectors and signed copies aren’t much more expensive.
Members of the 2021 class will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday, Aug. 8, a day after the 2020 class is honored following last year’s postponement.