Sun, Mar 25, 2018
MOBILE , Ala. (Mar. 22) – The Reese’s Senior Bowl welcomed three new members into its Hall of Fame on Thursday evening with the addition of former Denver Broncos linebacker Al Wilson, former Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano and former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jay Novacek.
"It's always such an honor for the Reese's Senior Bowl to recognize our annual Hall of Fame inductees and this 2018 class represents an exceptional group,” said Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage.
The trio makes up the 30th class in the Senior Bowl Hall of Fame, presented by Spire, and pushes the total number of inductees to 117 – an exclusive club when you consider more than 5,000 players have donned a Senior Bowl uniform in its 69-year history.
The three former Senior Bowlers were inducted at The Steeple in downtown Mobile, Ala., and join a prestigious group that includes Joe Namath, Walter Payton, Dan Marino, Bo Jackson and Brett Favre.
Wilson played in the 1999 Senior Bowl as a consensus All-American linebacker out of Tennessee. He was a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos and spent eight seasons as the anchor of the defense in the Mile High City. Though a neck injury ended his career prematurely, he was a Pro Bowler in five of his eight seasons and twice was named All-Pro.
"Al has a connection to Mobile through former Tennessee teammate, Tee Martin, when both helped the Vols win the 1998 national championship,” Savage said. “After playing in the 1998 game, he established himself very quickly as one of the elite linebackers in the NFL with his playing instincts and explosive tackling ability."
Villapiano, a standout from Bowling Green University, went to the Senior Bowl as the Mid American Conference Player of the Year in 1971. He was drafted in the second round by the Oakland Raiders and immediately paid dividends, earning AFC Defensive Rookie of Year honors in 1971. He would go on to play 13 seasons in the league, four of those seasons earning Pro Bowl recognition and twice he was named All-Pro. The speedy linebacker was a member of the Raiders’ Super Bowl XI championship team.
"One of the all-time great Oakland Raiders, it is such an honor to recognize Phil in our 2018 Hall of Fame class,” Savage said. “He is a perfect example of a college prospect utilizing the Senior Bowl as the ultimate NFL job audition, when he showcased his speed, athleticism and toughness in Mobile during the 1971 game."
Novacek, who represented Wyoming at the Senior Bowl in 1985, was drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent five seasons with the Cardinals before moving on to Dallas, where he became a five-time Pro Bowl selection and was a key part of Cowboys’ dynasty in the early-to-mid 1990s, winning three Super Bowls with ‘America’s Team’ (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX).
"Jay has been inducted into a number of halls of fame after his illustrious high school, college and professional career as a football player,:” Savage said. “We are so pleased to have him go in with this 2018 class as one of our alums who went on to become a reliable target for Troy Aikman and a three-time Super Bowl champion.”
Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was honored as the Reese’s Senior Bowl Rookie of the Year during the March 22 ceremony.
Hunt, who was the North’s Most Outstanding Player in the 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl, was drafted by the Chiefs in the third round of the NFL Draft and was named to the Pro Bowl in February.
The former Toledo standout exploded on to the scene in his first career game, racking up 246 total yards (an NFL record for a player making pro debut) and three touchdowns in a rout of the Patriots. He was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month in September and December.
Hunt finished his rookie campaign as the league’s top rusher with 1,327 yards and with 11 total touchdowns. He is only the sixth rookie to ever lead the NFL in rushing and the first rookie drafted outside of the first round to accomplish that feat in 50 years.
"I've followed Kareem since he was in high school at Willoughby South outside of Cleveland and he has always been a productive player regardless of the competition,” Savage said. “After his successful career at Toledo, he showcased his skills here at the Reese's Senior Bowl and the Kansas City Chiefs were wise to choose him in last year's draft. Now, as the reigning rushing champion of the National Football League during the 2017 season, we are so proud to name him as our Reese's Senior Bowl Rookie of the Year."
Hunt is the third recipient of the Senior Bowl Rookie of the Year Award. Last year, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was honored, and Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett was the inaugural winner of the award in 2016.
St. Paul’s cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis was named the Reese’s Senior Bowl High School Player of the Year during the ceremony.
The four-star defensive back was a key contributor to the Saints’ third Class 5A state title in the past four years. He officially signed with Alabama in December.
Armour-Davis was a two-way player for the Saints. He caught 24 passes for 364 yards and three TDs and on defense he finished his senior season with 21 tackles and eight pass break-ups.