Bengals All-Time RT Willie Anderson Adds To Honors With Pro Football Hall Of Fame Semifinal Berth

Big Will: No. 71.
Big Will: No. 71.

Bengals Ring of Honor finalist Willie Anderson is on another ballot.

For the second straight year Anderson has made the Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinals voting on a list of 25 players that includes only one other offensive lineman. Culled from a list of 123 nominees, Anderson tries to become a first-time finalist when the list of 15 is announced next month in a ballot chosen by the 49-member voting panel, of which is a member.

"It's an honor to have it happen again," said Anderson Wednesday, en route from his Atlanta home to his native Mobile, Ala. "I really wasn't too sure after last year. You can get some new names out there and you never know how that will come down. To be in there with all the great names, it quite an honor."

There are some new additions with Anquan Boldin, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Robert Mathis, Steve Smith, DeMarcus Ware and Vince Wilfork making the ballot on their first year of eligibility. Tennessee State head coach Eddie George, the great Titans running back who retired four years before Anderson in 2004, made it to the semifinals for the first time. Three Bengals on that list of 123 didn't make it, including the club's all-time leading rusher Corey Dillon and receiver Chad Johnson, as well as linebacker Takeo Spikes.

But former Jaguars left tackle Tony Boselli is the only other offensive lineman among the finalists and leads the group with seven semifinal appearances. While Boselli in played 91games from 1995-2001 in the shadow of four Hall of Fame left tackles (Willie Roaf, Jonathan Ogden, Walter Jones, Orlando Pace), Anderson was generally regarded as the NFL's best right tackle for most of a career that spanned 195 games and began with the Bengals making him the 10th pick in the 1996 draft and ended with one season for the Ravens in 2008.

After the list is cut to 15, the ballot is put in front of the voters for discussion in a mid-January meeting. At that point there are 18 names to consider with nominees from the senior category (former Raiders wide receiver Cliff Branch), coaching (former Eagles and Rams coach Dick Vermeil) and contributor (official Art McNally). Each candidate has to amass 80 percent of the votes for the August induction in a class announced Feb. 10.

Anderson is used to getting into Hall of Fames. Already a member of the Mobile Hall of Fame, he was recently elected to the Alabama Hall of Fame, a home that houses baseball icons Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

"To be in there with guys like that, it's really something else," Anderson said.