The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced 54 semifinalists for the Class of 2023 in the Senior and Coach/Contributor categories this week, and one of the biggest unsung heroes in New York Giants history is among the names vying for a bust in Canton.
Former NFL cornerback Everson Walls played most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, where he made four Pro Bowls and one first-team All-Pro, but he joined the New York Giants in 1990 and played an integral role in their Super Bowl XXV victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Now, as a senior semifinalist, Walls is one step closer to being enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
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Walls started all 16 games for the 1990 Giants during their run to the Super Bowl, finishing the regular season with six interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). He snagged a seventh pick in New York’s Divisional Round win over the Chicago Bears that postseason, but it was a tackle in Super Bowl XXV that made him an unsung hero.
This video clip from NFL films, featuring current New England Patriots head coach and former Giants defensive coordinator Bill Belichick, highlights Walls’ game-saving tackle in that game.
On the final drive of the game, the Bills faced a third-and-1 from their own 19-yard line. They handed off to All-Pro running back Thurman Thomas, who broke free for a gain of 22 yards before Walls brought him down in the open field.
“It was not overlooked by me. I thought it was the play of the game,” Belichick said of Walls’ tackle, via NFL Films. “If he doesn’t make that play, I don’t think we win.”
At the end of the video clip, Walls says he asked former Giants head coach Bill Parcells whether fellow defensive back Myron Guyton would have caught Thomas had he missed the tackle. And according to Walls, Parcells told him, “Yeah, probably in the parking lot.”
That final Bills drive ended with a failed 47-yard field goal attempt by kicker Scott Norwood — wide right — and the Giants secured a 20-19 victory in Super Bowl XXV.
Walls, who was misfortunately featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated after the 1982 NFC Championship game, also graced the cover after his Super Bowl win with the Giants.
Walls returned and started for the Giants the following season, but he was released in the middle of the 1993 season and finished his career with the Cleveland Browns. He retired with 57 career interceptions (tied-13th most in NFL history), 11 of which came in 36 games with the Giants.
Former Giants Coach Also Named HOF Semifinalist
Among the Coach/Contributor semifinalists for the Hall of Fame Class of 2023 is the late Dan Reeves, who passed away at the age of 77 earlier this year. Reeves was the Giants head coach from 1993 to 1996.
Although most of Reeves’ success came with the the Denver Broncos (three Super Bowl appearances from 1981 to 1992) and Atlanta Falcons (one Super Bowl appearance from 1996 to 2003), he claimed one of his two career AP NFL Coach of the Year awards with the Giants in 1993. He guided New York to an 11-5 finish that year, as well as an appearance in the Divisional Round of the NFC Playoffs.
Reeves ranks 10th all time among NFL head coaches with 190 career wins, 31 of which came in four seasons with the Giants.
2022 Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony Coming in August
As the debate for the Class of 2023 begins to heat up, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will hold its enshrinement ceremony for the Class of 2022 on Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio.
The eight members of this year’s class are offensive tackle Tony Boselli, wide receiver Cliff Branch, safety LeRoy Butler, official Art McNally, linebacker Sam Mills, defensive lineman Richard Seymour, coach Dick Vermeil and defensive lineman Bryant Young.