INDIANAPOLIS — Edgerrin James will have to wait another year after all, and 2021 is shaping up to be a big year for the Indianapolis Colts in Canton, Ohio.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday it has rescheduled this year’s Enshrinement Weekend events because of rising coronavirus concerns and will induct both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 during ceremonies from Aug. 5-9, 2021.
James, a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time NFL rushing champion during seven seasons with the Colts, is part of the 20-man centennial class that was to be enshrined this year. Now, he’ll almost certainly be joined in enshrinement by former Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, who is likely to headline the Class of 2021.
“The health and safety of our Hall of Famers, fans and volunteers who make Enshrinement Week so special remains our top priority,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker said in a release. “The Hall will honor the Centennial Class of 2020 next August, along with what promises to be an equally spectacular Class of 2021, as part of a multi-day celebration of football with an atmosphere that will deliver for fans ‘Twice the Fun in ’21.’”
James was first eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2014 after rushing for 12,246 yards and 80 touchdowns and catching 433 passes for 3,364 yards and 11 scores during an 11-year pro career. He finished his career with three seasons for the Arizona Cardinals and one for the Seattle Seahawks after leaving the Colts as a free agent following the 2005 season.
A collegiate star at Miami, James was the fourth overall pick in 1999. His selection was initially polarizing. Heisman Trophy-winning running back Rickey Williams of Texas went one pick later to the New Orleans Saints, but Hall of Fame general manager Bill Polian correctly believed James was the better fit for Indianapolis.
It didn’t take long for fans to agree.
James led the NFL with 369 carries and 1,553 yards as a rookie and topped that performance with 387 attempts for a league-leading 1,709 yards in Year 2. A knee injury cut short his 2001 season after just six games, but James added three more 1,000-yard rushing campaigns over his final four years with the Colts.
He rushed for 9,226 yards and 64 touchdowns and caught 356 passes for 2,839 yards and 11 touchdowns during his Indianapolis career.
“After you’ve been through the process for years, you really don’t understand the whole process,” James said during a press conference announcing his induction in February. “You just learn to be patient. So my thing was always to be patient, and the work’s done. It’s just a matter of time.”
The most recent delay could put a fitting cap on the running back’s enshrinement.
He and Manning will always be linked. Together with Hall of Fame wide receiver Marvin Harrison, they formed the core of one of the NFL’s most potent offensive attacks.
Harrison was enshrined alongside head coach Tony Dungy in 2016. Five years later, Manning and James likely also will go into the Hall together.
“My coach used to get mad at me because I wouldn’t carry out my fakes on certain run plays,” Manning told Fox-59’s Mike Chappell in January. “My reasoning was I wanted to watch Edgerrin James run the ball. You hear about players wanting to watch other players play. There’s a famous clip of Randy Moss on the sideline getting up on the bench because he said he wanted to watch Brett Favre play.
“Well, I wanted to watch Edgerrin James play. I had a front-row seat. That says a lot about how special of a player he was.”
A third Colts star also could join the 2021 party. Wide receiver Reggie Wayne – who caught 1,070 passes for 14,345 yards and 82 touchdowns in a 14-year career played entirely with Indianapolis – was a Hall of Fame finalist in 2020 and again will be on a star-studded ballot.
In addition to Manning, first-time eligible players in 2021 include cornerback Charles Woodson, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, running back Steven Jackson, offensive lineman Logan Mankins, tight end Heath Miller, cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive end Justin Tuck and quarterback Michael Vick.
The 2020 class already was the largest in history. James is joined in the modern era by safety Steve Atwater, wide receiver Isaac Bruce, offensive guard Steve Hutchinson and safety Troy Polamalu. Coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson also will be inducted alongside former NFL films president Steve Sabol, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former league executive George Young.
Candidates inducted by the Senior Committee are wide receiver Harold Carmichael, offensive tackle Jim Covert, safety Bobby Dillon, safety Cliff Harris, offensive tackle Winston Hill, defensive tackle Alex Karras, safety Donnie Shell, offensive tackle Duke Slater, end Mac Speedie and defensive end/linebacker Ed Sprinkle.
“We believe postponing Enshrinement Week events in 2020 is the right way to honor our enshrinees and their families properly, along with the other living Gold Jackets who want to come to Canton for this celebration,” Baker said. “We also believe next year promises to be the greatest gathering in football ever.”