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Former Falcons Devin Hester, Dwight Freeney among 15 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists

The two spent a short time in Atlanta and made a big impact, and now they’re potentially heading to Canton.

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

In a frankly loaded class of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a pair of former Falcons are hopeful they’ll wind up in Canton when the dust settles.

That would be Dwight Freeney and Devin Hester, who each had a short stint with the team in the mid-2010s and provided some memorable moments along the way. Both probably have a bit of an uphill climb on the first ballot, given who else is on the list, but I think it’s fair to say Freeney and Hester are Hall of Famers.

Freeney was one of the most feared pass rushers of his day, putting up at least 10 sacks in seven of his first nine seasons and leading the league with 16 sacks back in 2004. His 2016 season in Atlanta saw him contribute three sacks and serve as an invaluable mentor for the team’s young defenders, including career-year Vic Beasley, and he currently sits in 26th position all-time for sacks in NFL history.

Hester was simply one of the great return men in NFL history. He’s 8th all-time in combined yardage for kick and punt returns, breaking down to 8th in punt yardage and 12th in kick return yardage, and is first in NFL history with a mind-boggling 14 punt return touchdowns. Former Falcon Eric Metcalf, a terrific returner in his own right, is second in punt return scores with 10. Hester’s 2014 in Atlanta saw him house a punt for a touchdown, lead the league in kick return yardage, and reel in 38 catches as one of that shaky team’s lone bright spots.

As I wrote earlier, there are a ton of deserving choices on this list, but we’ll root for a pair of former Falcons to make it and join Claude Humphrey, Deion Sanders, Chris Doleman, Tony Gonzalez, and other ex-Atlanta players who have made it to Canton. Who are you voting in, if you have your choice?