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Sixteen former Bears nominated for Hall of Fame

Former Bears returner/receiver Devin Hester
Former Bears returner/receiver Devin Hester

Sixteen former Bears players are among 173 Modern-Era nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024. 

The group is led by record-breaking return specialist Devin Hester, who has been one of 15 Modern-Era finalists each of the past two years.

Other former Bears named Modern-Era nominees include center Olin Kreutz, linebacker Lance Briggs, cornerback Charles Tillman and receiver Brandon Marshall, who's in his first year of eligibility. 

Other Modern-Era nominees who played for the Bears but spent most of their careers with other teams are quarterback Doug Flutie; running backs Thomas Jones and Glyn Milburn; receiver Muhsin Muhammad; guards Ruben Brown and Josh Sitton; defensive ends Julius Peppers and Jared Allen; defensive tackle Ted Washington; linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and punter Brad Maynard. 

Hester, the most prolific return specialist in league history, played eight seasons with the Bears from 2006-13. He holds NFL records with 19 kick-return touchdowns, 14 punt-return TDs and 20 return touchdowns, which includes punts, kickoffs, missed field goals, fumbles and interceptions.

Selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2006 draft out of Miami, Hester was voted to three Pro Bowls, won 13 special teams player of the week awards and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s by the Associated Press and ESPN.

Kreutz and Briggs are Modern-Era nominees for the fifth straight year, while Tillman is in the group for the fourth year in a row.

Kreutz was chosen by the Bears in the third round of the 1998 draft out of Washington. He was voted to six Pro Bowls during his 13 seasons in Chicago from 1998-2010, anchoring the offensive line while winning four division championships and one conference title. The Washington product appeared in 191 games with 183 starts with the Bears, one shy of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton's franchise record.

Tillman and Briggs were picked by the Bears in the second and third rounds of the 2003 draft, respectively.

Tillman played his first 12 NFL seasons with the Bears from 2003-14 before spending his final year with the Carolina Panthers. He was part of a dominant defense that helped the Bears win three NFC North titles and one conference championship. He set team records with nine defensive touchdowns, eight interception return TDs and 675 interception return yards. His 36 interceptions are the most by a cornerback in team history and third most overall behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).

Known for smacking the ball away from opponents, a technique dubbed the "Peanut Punch," Tillman forced 42 fumbles in 12 seasons, including a career-high 10 in 2012 when he was voted to his second straight Pro Bowl.

Briggs was selected to seven Pro Bowls while spending his entire 12-year NFL career in Chicago from 2003-14. He appeared in 173 games with 170 starts, recording 1,566 tackles, 15 sacks, 16 interceptions and 18 forced fumbles. His six defensive touchdowns are tied for the third most in Bears history and his five interception return TDs are second most. Briggs was the first linebacker in NFL history to return an interception for a touchdown in each of his first three seasons.

Nineteen Finalists will be presented to the full 50-member Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee during its annual meeting to choose the Class of 2024. Those candidates will consist of 15 Modern-Era Players Finalists, the recently named Seniors Finalists Randy Gradishar, Steve McMichael and Art Powell and Coach/Contributor Finalist Buddy Parker.

The Selection Committee will meet early next year (on a date to be determined) in advance of Super Bowl LVIII. While there is no set number for any class of enshrinees, the selection process bylaws provide that between four and nine new members will be selected.  

The Seniors Finalists and Coach/Contributor Finalist are voted "yes" or "no" for election at the annual selection meeting and must receive at least 80% support from the Committee to join the Class of 2024. The Modern-Era Finalists will be trimmed during the meeting from 15 to 10, then from 10 to five. The remaining five Finalists will be voted on individually, "yes" or "no," and must receive the same 80% positive vote as the Seniors and Coach/Contributor to earn election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Take a look at each of the 32 players in franchise history to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the most of any team in the NFL.

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