Three former Colorado greats and one current CU staff member are on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame’s 2024 class.
On Monday, the National Football Foundation (NFF) and the College Hall of Fame announced the ballot, which includes 78 players and nine coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and 101 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks.
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This year’s ballot includes three former Buffaloes: running back Eric Bieniemy, cornerback Deon Figures and linebacker Matt Russell. Also on the ballot is current CU director of quality control Dennis Thurman, who was a defensive back at USC from 1974-77.
Bieniemy is on the ballot for the ninth time since first appearing in 2010. He was not on the ballot the last two years.
CU’s all-time leader rusher with 3,940 yards during his Buffs career (1987-90), Bieniemy was a unanimous first-team All-American in 1990, when he finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting. That season, he rushed for 1,628 yards and 17 touchdowns in helping CU win its only national title.
Bieniemy earned All-Big Eight honors twice (1988 and 1990) and was Big Eight offensive player of the year as a senior. After CU, he was selected in the second round of the NFL draft in 1991 by the San Diego Chargers. He played nine seasons in the NFL (San Diego, Cincinnati and Philadelphia).
When he was done playing, Bieniemy got into coaching in 2000. He had two stints as an assistant at CU (2001-02 and 2011-12) and spent the past 10 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, including the last five as offensive coordinator. He is preparing for his first season as the offensive coordinator of the Washington Commanders.
Figures, who played at CU from 1988-92, is on the ballot for the first time. He was the winner of the 1992 Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the top defensive back in the country. He was also a consensus first-team All-American and the Big Eight defensive player of the year that season.
During his career with the Buffs, Figures helped CU to the 1990 national title and three conference titles. He earned All-Big Eight honors three times and finished his career with 176 tackles, 12 interceptions and 27 pass breakups. He was first a first-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1993 and played six seasons in the NFL with the Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Russell is on the ballot for the second year in a row. From 1993-96, Russell played for the Buffs, enjoying his best season as a senior. In 1996, he won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. He was also a consensus first-team All-American after racking up 137 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and three sacks, as well as three fumble recoveries.
Ranking second in CU history in career tackles (446) and third in unassisted tackles (282), Russell earned first-team all-conference honors twice. He also helped the Buffs win four bowl games, as they went 39-8-1 during his career.
In December, the late Rashaan Salaam became the latest Buffs great to be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. The 1994 Heisman Trophy winner was the ninth former CU player in the Hall of Fame, along with former head coach Bill McCartney.
Other Buffs already in the College Football Hall of Fame: Byron White (class of 1952), Joe Romig (1984), Dick Anderson (1993), Bobby Anderson (2006), Alfred Williams (2010), John Wooten (2012), Herb Orvis (2016) and Michael Westbrook (2020). McCartney was elected in 2013.
Thurman, who was hired in December on first-year head coach Deion Sanders’ staff at CU, starred at USC from 1974-77. He was a two-time first-team All-American who helped the Trojans to the 1974 national title.
The ballot for the class of 2024 also includes, among others: Warrick Dunn (Florida State), Larry Fitzgerald (Pittsburgh), Marvin Harrison (Syracuse), Ryan Leaf (Washington State), Marshawn Lynch (California), Randy Moss (Marshall), Julius Peppers (North Carolina), Ron Rivera (California), Alex Smith (Utah), Terrell Suggs (Arizona State) and Michael Vick (Virginia Tech).
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