Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn shared a backfield for five years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and their complementary styles and shared success led to them being nicknamed, "Thunder & Lightning." Long after their retirement from the NFL, Alstott and Dunn remain two of the most popular players in franchise history.
Now Alstott and Dunn are together again on a list of initial nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2021. That list, released on Wednesday, also includes John Lynch, who has been a finalist for induction in each of the last seven years, and Ronde Barber and Simeon Rice, who have each made it to the semifinalist stage on multiple occasions.
In all, there were 10 former Buccaneers among the 130 nominees revealed on Wednesday, but the five above are the ones most closely associated with the franchise. Alstott, Lynch, Barber and Rice were all part of the 2002 Super Bowl champion team.
The other former Buccaneers on the list (with their years in Tampa noted) were quarterback Jeff Garcia (2007-08), guard Logan Mankins (2014-15), fullback Lorenzo Neal (1998) and punters Sean Landeta (1997) and Reggie Roby (1995). Mankins, who the Buccaneers acquired in a trade in 2014 after he had made six Pro Bowls in nine seasons with the Patriots, was eligible for nomination for the first time this year.
Alstott, Barber and Lynch are all members of the Buccaneers' Ring of Honor at Raymond James Stadium, with Barber joining that prestigious group last season. That Ring of Honor also includes four men who are already enshrined in the Hall of Fame: defensive end Lee Roy Selmon, defensive tackle Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks and Head Coach Tony Dungy.
The initial list of nominees is the first step in electing up to five modern-era players for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In November, Hall voters will choose a list of approximately 25 semifinalists from the 130 nominees. That list will be further pared to 15 finalists in January, and the final balloting will take place, as is tradition, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl. If any Buccaneers find out they have been chosen for the Class of 2021 this year they'll be able to celebrate in their NFL home. Super Bowl LV will be played at Raymond James Stadium on February 7, 2021.
The Buccaneers' three semifinalists from last year all make strong cases for a bronze bust in Canton. Barber is the only player in NFL history with at least 45 interceptions and at least 25 sacks, he went to five Pro Bowls and is a two-time All-Pro and he won a Super Bowl ring after recording one of the most iconic plays in postseason history. Lynch was selected to nine Pro Bowls during his career with the Buccaneers and Broncos. Considered one of the hardest-hitting defenders of all time, he is also a Super Bowl champion and two-time All-Pro, and his seven straight years as a finalist suggest he is already considered Hall of Fame-worthy. Rice ranks 20th on the NFL's all-time list with 122.0 sacks and all but one of the Hall-eligible players above him on the list has already modeled for a bust in Canton. From 1998 to 2005, Rice led all NFL players with 101.5 sacks; the players second and third on the list, Michael Strahan and Jason Taylor, have been voted into the Hall.