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Marino, Young head Hall of Fame ballot

The most prolific quarterback in NFL history and one of the most exciting head the ballot for Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame elections.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) _ The most prolific quarterback in NFL history and one of the most exciting head the ballot for Saturday's Pro Football Hall of Fame elections.

Dan Marino, who figures to be a shoo-in for induction, and Steve Young are the favorites to get the required 31 votes from a panel of 39 pro football writers and broadcasters.

Marino, of course, left the Miami Dolphins after the 1999 season with NFL bests of 4,967 completions, 8,358 passes, 61,361 yards and 420 touchdowns. His record of 48 TD passes in a season was broken in 2004 by Peyton Manning.

Although he never won a Super Bowl, Marino was the 1984 league MVP, made three All-Pro teams and nine Pro Bowls. When he retired, he owned 21 NFL marks, including most seasons with 3,000 yards or more passing (13); most yards passing in a season (5,084 in 1984, the only year he won a conference championship); and most games with 300 yards or more passing (63).

``It's humbling to even think about the opportunity to get into the Hall of Fame, when you think about all the years the league has been in existence and all the incredible players,'' Marino said.

Humbling, but an easy choice, it would seem.

``He played the game with passion, he played the game with skill, and he made so many things happen,'' Mike Ditka said.

Young did win a Super Bowl as the starting quarterback for the 49ers after the 1994 season. He also was a backup to Joe Montana on two Super Bowl champions.

A clever runner with a strong arm and great field vision, Young made seven Pro Bowls and was a three-time All-Pro. The NFL's most valuable player in 1992 and '94, he held the highest passer rating in league history (96.8) when he retired in '99. He also set the highest single-season rating of 112.8, which Manning broke this season.

It is a huge honor to be considered with the names on this list, some of the all-time greats,'' Young said.I have always had enormous respect for the Hall of Fame and all it represents, and should this come to pass, it would be the capstone to my career.''

Young also spent two seasons in the USFL before joining Tampa Bay in 1985. He was traded to San Francisco in 1987.

Another first-time nominee is former Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin, who caught 750 passes and scored 65 touchdowns for the Cowboys of the 1990s. One of the ``Triplets,'' along with quarterback Troy Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith, Irvin was a five-time Pro Bowler and a leader on a team that won three Super Bowls in four seasons.

In 1991, he led the NFL with 1,523 yards receiving. His career average per catch was an impressive 15.9 yards.

I could go on for an hour on Michael Irvin and what he meant to our football team and me,'' Aikman said.Look at the impact he had on the history of the game and if the voters do that, he is a slam dunk. I fully expect Michael to make it.''

The other first-time candidate is the late Derrick Thomas, a star linebacker for Kansas City from 1989-1999 before dying from injuries in an auto accident. A superb pass rusher, Thomas led the league in 1990 with 20 sacks and had 126{ in his career. He set league marks with seven sacks in one game, against Seattle in '90, and 19 recoveries of opponents' fumbles. He also forced a league-record 45 fumbles.

Thomas made nine Pro Bowls and was a two-time All-Pro.

First-time finalists who aren't in their initial year of eligibility are quarterback Bennie Friedman; back Fritz Pollard; guard Russ Grimm; and cornerback Roger Wehrli. Friedman and Pollard were selected as senior candidates.

Repeat finalists include defensive ends Richard Dent, L.C. Greenwood and Claude Humphrey; linebacker Harry Carson; guard Bob Kuechenberg; wide receiver Art Monk; and contributor George Young.

The induction ceremony is Aug. 7.

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