Seahawks Legend Shaun Alexander Hopeful Ring of Honor Induction Bolsters Hall of Fame Candidacy – Sports Illustrated

RENTON, Wash. – Nearly 15 years after he last suited up for the organization, the Seahawks will celebrate iconic running back Shaun Alexander's remarkable career as the 16th member of their illustrious Ring of Honor during Sunday's home game against the Cardinals.
It's been a long time coming for "Alexander the Great," who has faded out of the limelight in retirement while enjoying time with his wife Valerie and 12 children and managing a farm in the Washington D.C. area. The only MVP in team history and Seattle's all-time leading rusher, he's eager to finally see his No. 37 enter the rafters alongside former teammates Matt Hasselbeck and Walter Jones as well as coach Mike Holmgren, who all helped put the franchise on the map.
“To be celebrated with all the other guys [as a member of the Ring of Honor], it’s humbling and it’s exciting and it brings back all the great memories of the guys I got to play with,” Alexander told reporters on Thursday.
Drafted out of Alabama in 2000, Alexander had to wait for his turn in the backfield with veteran Ricky Watters still under contract upon his arrival. As a rookie, he rushed for 313 yards in 16 games in a reserve role, performing well in limited action while Watters eclipsed 1,000 yards for the third straight season.
The following season, Watters maintained his starting gig until he suffered a shoulder injury, opening the door for Alexander to break out in his absence. Taking full advantage of the opportunity, he jump-started one of the most impressive five-year stretches by a player at any position, finishing with 1,318 yards and an NFL-high 14 rushing touchdowns to pace the 9-7 Seahawks. Somehow, he didn't make the Pro Bowl or earn All-Pro honors.
Over the next four seasons, Alexander glided and powered through opposing defenses at a historic clip, rushing for over 6,000 yards behind a pair of future Hall of Famers in Jones and Steve Hutchinson and scoring a whopping 82 combined touchdowns. His finest season came in 2005 when he led the NFL with 1,880 rushing yards and established a new league record with 27 rushing touchdowns, earning himself MVP honors before helping Seattle advance to its first-ever Super Bowl.
“It was one of those moments where you feel like you’re floating in the air,” Alexander recalled when asked about the magical 2005 season. “Angels are carrying you. It seemed like every play just worked… Even the plays we didn’t think would work were working.”
But despite that impressive production, much to his vexation, Alexander hasn't come close to sniffing the Hall of Fame since hanging up his cleats. While he has been nominated in nine out of 10 years of eligibility, including recently being announced as one of 229 nominees for the Class of 2023, he hasn't advanced as a semi-finalist once in that span.
One of only 10 running backs in NFL history to rush for 100 or more touchdowns, Alexander has had a tough time understanding why he hasn't been given more serious Hall of Fame consideration to this point. With his name back in the spotlight due to his upcoming Ring of Honor ceremony, however, he's keeping his fingers crossed the induction will help bolster his chances of joining Jones and Hutchinson in Canton.
“I just busted my tail and we score 100 touchdowns and then for it not to be perceived as Hall of Fame-worthy has always been hard,” Alexander said. “But I hope that this gives me a shot at it.”
Looking at Alexander's candidacy, some critics would argue his career rushing totals aren't Hall of Fame caliber. He currently ranks 36th all-time in rushing yards, with several non-Hall of Famers such as former Bears star Matt Forte and Giants star Tiki Barber in front of him. Others would argue his prime wasn't long enough, as his play dropped off substantially after his 2005 MVP season with only 1,612 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final two seasons with the Seahawks.
Whether fair or not, there's also another group of boisterous critics who believe Alexander's statistics reflect more on the elite blocking in front of him than his actual running talents.
But for those arguing against his candidacy due to longevity or the presence of Jones and Hutchinson in front of him, Alexander's resume offers plenty of rebuttals that illustrate his Hall of Fame worthiness. Of the nine players who have rushed for 100 or more touchdowns in their career, seven of those players already are in Canton and assuming Adrian Peterson won't suit up again, he's a likely first-ballot selection five years from now. That would unfairly leave the ex-Alabama star as the only omission from that group.
As for the rushing yardage argument, while Alexander didn't quite make the 10,000 career yards mark often used a cutoff line for running backs as Hall candidates, he still had more yards than Hall of Famers Earl Campbell, Jim Csonka, and Terrell Davis.
Most notably, Alexander and former Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson, Alexander's main competitor in his prime and the current single-season rushing touchdown record holder, stand out as the only two running backs in NFL history with five seasons of 1,100 or more rushing yards and 14 or more rushing touchdowns. Alexander is the only player in NFL history to achieve those numbers in five consecutive seasons.
Statistics aside, Alexander played the role of an artist out of the backfield. He possessed remarkable field vision and instincts, letting his blocks set up in front of him and using what he called "deceptive speed" to glide through creases and outrun defenders at the second level. While he benefitted immensely from the blocking in front of him starring for the Seahawks, a running back doesn't post the gaudy numbers he did without being extremely talented in his own right.
Considering everything he accomplished and the success of the teams he played for in Seattle, it's no wonder Alexander seems miffed about his lack of traction as a Hall of Fame aspirant. Unlike the past nine tries where he came up short, however, he can hold out hope his jaw-dropping highlight reels resurfacing on social media and a closer look at his eye-popping numbers helps vault him back into the discussion as a legitimate candidate.
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