Former Eagles running back Ricky Watters and former Philadelphia Stars linebacker Sam Mills are among the 25 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2020.
This is Watters’ first time as a semifinalist and Mills’ second. The Hall’s 48-member selection committee will vote again and reduce the number to 15 finalists. The committee will then meet the day before the Super Bowl and elect a maximum of five of the finalists to the Hall of Fame.
Watters played three of his 10 NFL seasons with the Eagles (1995-97). He rushed for 3,794 yards and 31 touchdowns in those three years, and also caught 161 passes for 1,318 more yards.
Watters finished with 10,643 rushing yards, 24th most in league history. He is tied for 26th in yards from scrimmage with 14,891. He’s tied for 31st in rushing and receiving touchdowns with 91.
Watters was a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 1991. The Notre Dame product spent three seasons with them before signing with the Eagles. He finished his career with the Seattle Seahawks, with whom he played four seasons.
Mills, whose nickname was “Field Mouse’’ because he was just 5-foot-9 and 225 pounds, was the best defensive player in the short-lived United States Football League. Signed by the Stars after getting cut by NFL and CFL teams, he led the Stars to two league championships in the league’s three seasons of existence.
After the league died, he signed with the New Orleans Saints and played nine seasons there. He finished his career with Carolina, where he played three seasons and later became an assistant coach.
Mills earned five Pro Bowl invitations with the Saints and Panthers. Even though he spent just three years as a player with the Panthers, they built a statue of him in front of their stadium.
Mills died in 2005 of cancer at the age of 45.
“He was the best player I ever coached,’’ said Jim Mora, who was the Stars coach when Mills played for them and later coached Mills in New Orleans. It should be noted that Mora coached Peyton Manning and Hall of Famers Rickey Jackson and Willie Roaf.
When the USFL folded and Mora was hired by the Saints, he brought Mills to the Big Easy with him.
“He was the ideal player to coach,’’ Mora said. “He was an amazing guy. In football, low man wins. He could step up and get leverage on an offensive lineman coming out to block him or a back coming out to block him. And he had the strength and technique to stuff people and make the play. He was an incredible football player.’’
The list of semifinals also includes three first-time-eligible players: safety Troy Polamalu, wide receiver Reggie Wayne and linebacker Patrick Willis.
There is no quarterback among the 25 semifinalists.