In honor of the NFL’s 100th birthday, the Pro Football Hall of Fame decided to expand its next enshrinement class and add a 15-member “Centennial Slate.” Earlier this week, the finalists — who will be up for vote in early January — were announced and a former member of the New England Patriots is among the 10 contributors of whom three will make it into the Hall of Fame next year: long-time team executive Francis “Bucko” Kilroy.
Kilroy spent his playing career in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles between 1943 and 1955. As a two-way player who lined up along the offensive and defensive lines, he won two championships while also being named All-Pro on six separate occasions and the NFL’s team of the 1940s. After his playing days came to an end, Kilroy became a scout — first with the Eagles, later with the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins.
In 1971, he finally moved to New England where he spent the next 36 years in various roles. Kilroy worked as personnel director from 1971 to 1978, as general manager between 1979 and 1982, as vice president between 1983 and 1993, and finally as scouting consultant until 2007. At the time of his death at the age of 86 in July 2007, he had been a contributor to 14 of the club’s 15 playoff seasons at the time and had won three Super Bowls.
The mark Kilroy left not only on the Patriots but the NFL in general can still be seen to this day. Not only was he responsible for drafting some of the greatest players in league history — Hall of Famers John Hannah and Mike Haynes among them — he also was a co-founder of the scouting combine. All in all, Kilroy has a strong Hall of Fame résumé.
Another notable player worthy of Hall of Fame consideration is former Patriots great Gino Cappelletti, who did not make the list of centennial finalists. Cappelletti became one of the most recognizable faces of the Patriots franchise during his 11-year career, and one of the American Football League’s biggest stars: he was a five-time AFL All-Star, was voted the league’s most valuable player in 1964 and retired as its all-time leading scorer with 1,130 points.
“The Duke” earned all of those accolades not only by being one of the best players of his era, but also by being one of its most versatile ones. As a kicker, for example, Cappelletti made 176 field goals (out of 333 attempts) as well as 342 of 353 extra point tries. He also played wide receiver for the Patriots and caught 298 passes for 4,770 yards and 42 touchdowns. Furthermore, he intercepted four passes as a part-time defensive back.
And yet, Cappelletti still has only one Hall of Fame jacket to call his own: the red one the Patriots awarded him in 1992, when he became the second player to be enshrined into the team’s Hall of Fame. Despite his on-field success, the 85-year old, who has also called 585 games as the team’s color commentator alongside Gil Santos, is still not being recognized as one of the great players of his era by the Hall of Fame.