Former Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94), shown Sept. 11, 2011, ranks ninth all-time in sacks. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 30 (UPI) -- Star outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, wide receiver Andre Johnson and special teams great Devin Hester were among the 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2022, it was announced Thursday.
Ware, Johnson and Hester each are in their first year of eligibility. It is the third time in the past five years that at least three of the finalists are players in their first year of eligibility.
The other modern-era finalists for 2022 were: defensive end Jared Allen, tackle Willie Anderson, defensive back Ronde Barber, tackle Tony Boselli, safety LeRoy Butler, receiver Torry Holt, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, linebacker Zach Thomas, receiver Reggie Wayne, linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive lineman Bryant Young.
As many as five of the finalists will be chosen next month for the Hall of Fame's 2022 class. The enshrinement ceremony is expected to take place in August in Canton, Ohio, though specific dates have yet to be announced.
Late wide receiver Cliff Branch previously was selected as a seniors finalist, while Dick Vermeil was chosen as the coach finalist. Former referee Art McNally was the contributors finalist.
Ware, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection during his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, ranks ninth in league history in career sacks (138.5). He was a starter on the Broncos' Super Bowl 50-winning team.
Johnson was named to the Pro Bowl seven times for the Houston Texans. He led the league in receiving yards twice (2008-09) and sits 11th all-time in both receptions (1,062) and receiving yards (14,185).
Hester, who starred for the Chicago Bears and Atlanta Falcons, retired as the NFL's all-time leader in special teams touchdowns (20). The two-time All-Decade player also holds the record for punt return touchdowns in a single season (four).
If Ware, Johnson or Hester are selected for enshrinement, it will be the ninth straight year in which at least one player in his first year of eligibility has been enshrined. The Hall of Fame's Class of 2022 will be revealed Feb. 10 during the NFL Honors show.