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Thurman must wait for Hall's call Thomas gets eliminated after making first cut

Thurman Thomas got positive support from selectors Saturday but did not get enough votes to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Buffalo Bills' great running back was among the 15 finalists for induction and advanced to the final 10 candidates in the first round of voting during the selection meeting. However, when it came time to trim the list from 10 to six candidates, Thomas was eliminated.

All of the final six candidates -- Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, John Madden, Warren Moon, Reggie White and Rayfield Wright -- received at least 80 percent of the votes, the percentage required for induction.

The class of 15 finalists was considered especially strong because of the caliber of the two senior committee nominees -- Madden and Wright -- and because of the strength of the first-time eligible players.

"I've been on the committee for 29 years and this is the toughest class I can ever remember," said Furman Bisher, voter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"This is probably the best class I've seen," said the Associated Press' Dave Goldberg, who has been a selector for 13 years.

Only 25 percent of Hall of Famers have been inducted in their first year of eligibility. Voters had a positive response to Thomas. There were no negative sentiments aired toward him.

"He'll get in," said Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Make sure everybody in Buffalo doesn't worry. There's no doubt in my mind he'll get in."

Aikman and White were widely considered locks for induction. In comparison with Madden, Wright and Carson, Thomas lost out to men who have been waiting much longer for induction.

Madden, the winningest coach by percentage (.759) in NFL regular-season history, has waited 27 years since his career ended. Wright, the best lineman on a Dallas team that went to the Super Bowl five times and won it twice, has waited 26 years since his career ended. Carson, the run-stuffing inside linebacker of the New York Giants, made the final 15 seven years in a row and had made the final six and not gotten in two of the previous three years.

Moon also was in his first year of eligibility. He ranks fourth in NFL history in passing yards and fifth in passing touchdowns. However, he probably would have finished his career No. 1 all-time, ahead of Dan Marino, if he were not forced to play the first six years of his career in Canada. Despite being the Pacific 8 Conference's most valuable player and the Rose Bowl's most valuable player coming out of college, Moon was told by NFL scouts he would have to play receiver if he wanted a career in the NFL. Due to discrimination against African-American quarterbacks, Moon's NFL career didn't start until he was 28.

Moon quarterbacked teams to the playoffs nine times in 15 seasons but he never got his team to the conference title game. However, in the four playoff losses during the prime of his career, he averaged 329 yards passing in those games and his team squandered a fourth-quarter lead each time. One of those losses was in Buffalo when the Bills scored the greatest comeback in NFL history in January 1993.

The others who made the final 10 but not the final six were Dallas receiver Michael Irvin, Miami guard Bob Kuchenberg and Atlanta defensive end Claude Humphrey.

Eliminated in the first round of voting were receiver Art Monk, guard Russ Grimm, tackle Gary Zimmerman, linebacker Derrick Thomas and defensive end L.C. Greenwood.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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