When Jeff Hartings first heard his name was on the list of candidates for the Hall of Fame Class of 2013 he had to stop for a minute to really take it in. At the time, he didn’t even know what to say about it, other than he wanted to share the news with his wife Rebecca.
But after have a little time to let it all sink in, Hartings couldn’t be prouder to be on the list of 127 candidates.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Hartings. “It’s a privilege, an honor and a blessing. When I looked at that list I was curious about who was on there, how many. It was overwhelming. There are so few names. Do I feel like I will ever be one of the guys voted in, hopefully but you never know. Some of those guys have been on the list a long time.
“I don’t even know if I need that to happen. That was one of my goals to have an opportunity to be a Hall of Famer. To be able to accomplish that is like the Pro Bowl, it’s a personal goal. Winning the Super Bowl, nothing will ever top that, but to be nominated into the Hall of Fame is something special and something I didn’t expect and that makes it even better.”
Hartings was the Detroit Lions first round draft pick in 1996, going on to play 11 seasons in the NFL, including six with the Steelers after signing with the team as a free agent in 2001. It was that time with the Steelers, when he was twice voted to the Pro Bowl, when his career really took off. Hartings was signed to replace Hall of Fame center Dermontti Dawson, a daunting task for the former guard but one he embraced.
“I am so thankful to (general manager) Kevin Colbert for bringing me to the Steelers. I am so thankful to God for giving me the opportunity,” said Hartings. “Being a guard in Detroit I didn’t think much about moving to center. I am thankful to Kevin for having faith in me that I could play center and bringing me to Pittsburgh. It’s a lot of responsibility to come in and take over for Dermontti Dawson and I think I did a good job.”
When Hartings first arrived in Pittsburgh, he couldn’t help but notice a wall near the offensive line team meeting room that featured the great centers that played for the Steelers. They included Ray Mansfield, and Hall of Famers Mike Webster and Dawson, who was inducted this year. Hartings knew they were the ones who set the standard for center play in Pittsburgh, and now he too is on that wall and a candidate to join them in the Hall of Fame.
“When you look at that wall and see the Hall of Fame centers and the great ones who played the game that is part of why we are playing the game,” said Hartings. “It reflects the way you played the game and the fact that you were considered one of the best. You were given a talent to play in the NFL, but you took that talent and made the most of it. That is what everyone should do. You should take the talent God gave you and do the most of it. That is what I am most satisfied with, that I did that.”
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The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced their candidates for the Class of 2013, and among the 127 nominees are eight with ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Included in the group are running back Jerome Bettis and linebacker Kevin Greene, both who were finalists in 2012. Also nominated are former Coach Bill Cowher, Hartings, kicker Gary Anderson, defensive coordinator Bud Carson, and Art Rooney, Jr., the team’s director of player personnel during the 1970s when the team won four Super Bowl championships.
Also nominated is Buddy Parker, who coached the Steelers from 1957-64 and also coached the Chicago Cardinals and Detroit Lions.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee will narrow the list to 25 semifinalists, to be announced in late November. That list will be narrowed down to 15 modern-era finalists in early January.
The Class of 2013 will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, the day before Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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