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Fans to select next Chargers Hall of Famer

Posted Jul 16, 2012

For the first time in team history, Chargers fans will have the opportunity to select the next inductee into the team’s Hall of Fame.

Three former Chargers greats – punter Darren Bennett, running back Natrone Means and wide receiver Anthony Miller – are on the fan ballot and one will become the 36th member of the Chargers Hall of Fame in voting presented by AT&T.

Voting begins immediately on the San Diego Chargers’ official website at www.Chargers.com/hof and continues through September 17.

“We’re excited to bring this opportunity to our fans, with the support of AT&T,” said Chargers CEO A.G. Spanos. “This is the highest honor that the team can bestow on one of our players and we think all three players – Darren, Natrone and Anthony – are deserving of this recognition. Our fans are just as knowledgeable as they are passionate. We’re really looking forward to their involvement in the process.”

Bennett, named the punter on the NFL’s all-Decade team of the ‘90s after a distinguished career as an Australian Rules football player, said this honor never crossed his mind.

“It was a great privilege to be a part of the Chargers; one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my life,” said Bennett. “My family and I love living here in San Diego and being a Charger is just the icing on the cake.”

Means was the power behind the Chargers’ running game that led the team to Super Bowl XXIX.

“I am very excited and humbled to be considered for this honor. I had some great experiences with the Chargers and made life-long friends. San Diego was a city where the hard work in practice felt appreciated by the fans on game day,” said Means.

Miller was the team’s brightest star during his tenure.

“I am happy to be a nominee for something like this,” said Miller. “It was a great privilege to play for the San Diego Chargers and I appreciate everything the organization has done for me. It was definitely an honor to represent the Chargers in four Pro Bowls and I still remember seeing my number [83] on a fan-made banner at every home game.”

The Chargers Hall of Fame was created in 1976 when linebackers Frank Buncom, Emil Karas and Bob Laraba, and tight end Jacque MacKinnon were all inducted posthumously. Since then, 35 Chargers greats have been inducted, including (in order of induction): wide receiver Lance Alworth, tackle Ron Mix, running back Paul Lowe, running back Keith Lincoln, majority owner Barron Hilton, defensive tackle Ernie Ladd, guard Walt Sweeney, quarterback John Hadl, linebacker Chuck Allen, wide receiver Gary Garrison, head coach Sid Gillman, defensive end Earl Faison, quarterback Dan Fouts, wide receiver Charlie Joiner, head coach Don Coryell, cornerback Leslie “Speedy” Duncan, tight end Kellen Winslow, tackle Russ Washington, minority owner George Pernicano, kicker Rolf Benirschke, cornerback Gil Byrd, defensive tackle Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, guard Doug Wilkerson, wide receiver Wes Chandler, quarterback Stan Humphries, head coach Bobby Ross, defensive tackle Louie Kelcher, guard Ed White, center Donnie Macek and defensive end Fred Dean. Linebacker Junior Seau was inducted in 2011.

Darren Bennett, Punter, 1995-2001

Darren Bennett is one of the NFL’s amazing success stories. On a whim, the former Australian Rules football player contacted the Chargers for a tryout while in San Diego for his honeymoon.  That phone call was the first step to becoming one of the NFL’s all-time premier punters.

Bennett rewrote the Chargers’ record book in every season he played. In his rookie season, he finished second in the NFL in punting average and set a team record with a 44.7-yard average on 72 punts. He was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl appearance that year. It was just the beginning of a long and record-setting career. Bennett went on to establish himself as arguably the best punter in the NFL for the rest of the 1990s.

Bennett had one of the NFL’s most powerful legs during his career, but he is probably most remembered as the punter who introduced the unique back-spin kick that is now used universally in the league.

Twice named to the AFC Pro Bowl squad, Bennett holds almost every team punting record, including most punts in a career (771), season (95) and games (11); most punt yards in a career (33,776), season (4,248), and game (522); tied for first in highest punting average in a game, and ranks second with the highest punting average for a career and season. Even more impressive is the fact that he suffered only one blocked punt during his career.

Bennett received many accolades, including Chargers Special Teams Player of the Year (2000), Sports Illustrated’s All-Pro honors (1999), selected to the Chargers 40th and 50th Anniversary All-Time Teams, and named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990’s.

Natrone Means, Running Back, 1993-95, 98-99

Natrone Means was selected by the Chargers in the 2nd round (41st overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft. Means combined all the traits needed to be an outstanding running back: low center of gravity, powerful build, quickness and breakaway speed, superior balance and terrific stamina. It would be all of those traits that enabled Means to help lead the Chargers to the Super Bowl in 1994.

Means played in all 16 games as a rookie and finished the season ranked second on the team with 645 rushing yards on 160 carries. He took over the starting running back role in 1994 and made the most of it, rushing for 1,350 yards – a team record at the time – and 12 touchdowns on 343 carries, ranking fourth in the NFL. His efforts would help send the Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX in Miami on Jan. 29, 1995. Means became the youngest player to ever to score a touchdown in the Super Bowl when, at age 22, he made a one-yard plunge into the end zone. He earned a Pro Bowl berth and was named the Chargers MVP that year.

After two stints with the Chargers, the bruising back ranks fourth in team history in rushing attempts (1013), yards (3885) and touchdowns (34). He was voted Offensive Player of the Year by his teammates in 1998.

Anthony Miller, Wide Receiver, 1988-93

Anthony Miller was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the first round (15th overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft. The 5-11, 189-pound wide receiver from the University of Tennessee played six seasons with the Chargers and proved to be one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the NFL.

The Chargers selected Miller for his ability to be an up-field, vertical threat and he did not disappoint, finishing second on the team with 36 catches and 526 yards his rookie season. The speedy receiver had a break-out sophomore season earning his first Pro Bowl berth, leading the team and finishing fifth in AFC in catches and second in yards. The 1989 season would be Miller’s best year, setting career-highs with 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns. His ’89 feats rank sixth in team history. Miller would continue to turn in spectacular seasons and be the Chargers most productive receiver and kick-returner.

A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Miller ranks seventh in team history in receiving yards with 5,582 and 37 touchdowns, eighth in receptions and ninth in total yards from scrimmage. He was named All-AFC selection three times, team captain

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