Former Air Force safety and ex-Navy coach back on College Football Hall of Fame ballot

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Scott Thomas

Scott Thomas is the only former service academy player on the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame ballot. (Air Force photo)

One was a senior leader on what’s probably the best Air Force football team ever. The other coached both of Navy’s Heisman winners and led the Mids to a de facto national title game in 1963. Not much in common, except another chance at enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Air Force’s Scott Thomas and Navy’s Wayne Hardin are back on the hall’s ballot, which was announced Feb. 28. Thomas appeared for the first time in 2011, and Hardin has been on since at least 2006. Once a candidate clears the nomination process (here’s the lofty criteria; non-All-Americans need not apply), he’s guaranteed a spot on future ballots.

Thomas starred at safety for the 1985 Air Force squad that went 12-1 and finished fifth in the end-of-season coaches poll (eighth in the Associated Press rankings). He picked off six passes that year, returning one for a touchdown. He also returned a punt and a kickoff for scores and racked up 89 tackles. The 1985 season already has quite the Hall of Fame pedigree — Chad Hennings (inducted 2006) was a sophomore defensive tackle on that team, which was led by head coach Fisher DeBerry (inducted 2011).

Hardin was an assistant at Navy from 1955-58 until taking over the top job in 1959. He went 38-22-2, including two years with 9-2 records. Both those seasons came with some serious individual hardware: Running back Joe Bellino took home the Heisman Trophy in 1960, and quarterback Roger Staubach did the same in 1963. Staubach’s squad ended up ranked second in the nation and lost to top-ranked Texas 28-6 in the Cotton Bowl.

Hardin also earned five straight wins over Army — the longest streak at the time — before dropping his final game as Navy coach to the Cadets. He went on to coach at Temple from 1970-82 and compiled a 118-74-5 career record.

Competition for the hall will be fierce, as usual — while there’s no limit to the number of selectees, other names on the ballot include Heisman winners Eric Crouch, Ty Detmer, Vinny Testaverde and Danny Wuerffel, along with college legends Brian Bosworth, Tommie Frazier and Orlando Pace. Coach nominees include Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer, Miami’s Jimmy Johnson and Texas A&M’s R.C. Slocum. Nominees will be announced May 15.

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