National Football Foundation’s Steve Hatchell excited for CU Buffs great Rashaan Salaam to get HOF honor

As the president and CEO of the National Football Foundation, Steve Hatchell is thrilled every year when new members of the College Football Hall of Fame are inducted.

As a graduate of the University of Colorado, however, Hatchell is particularly thrilled when a Buffalo gets added to the Hall of Fame.

In January, it was announced that CU great Rashaan Salaam had been elected to the Hall of Fame class of 2022. Recently, it was announced that the annual NFF awards dinner to honor the class will be held Dec. 6 at the Bellagio Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

“From a Colorado standpoint, obviously, it’s fantastic,” said Hatchell, who, along with Salaam, is a member of the CU Athletics Hall of Fame. “Colorado, during many years, had one of the best football programs in the country and was clearly identified by great players and great coaches. So to have anybody get into the Hall of Fame I think it’s very special.”

The late Salaam, who took his own life on Dec. 5, 2016, at the age of 42, is one of the greatest players in CU history.

As a junior in 1994, Salaam won the school’s only Heisman Trophy, rushing for 2,055 yards and 24 touchdowns during the regular season. At the time, he was only the fourth player in college football history to reach 2,000 yards in a season. Salaam added 83 yards and three touchdowns in a Fiesta Bowl victory against Notre Dame. CU finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in the country that season.

The fifth unanimous All-American in CU history, Salaam won the Doak Walker Award and Walter Camp Trophy in 1994, as well.

Salaam will be just the ninth player in CU history to earn induction to the College Football Hall of Fame, along with legendary coach Bill McCartney.

The 2022 class includes 18 players and three coaches, and it’s not easy being a part of that group.

“In any given year, we start out and we’ve got 1,500 candidates to go into the Hall of Fame and then they go to screening committees,” Hatchell said. “From the screening committees, we get a roster of 75 that goes to the honors court and they pick the Hall of Fame class for that particular year. So it’s an arduous process and I think on several fronts, it’s great to get Rashaan in there.

“He’s a Heisman Trophy winner, so Heisman Trophy winners – I won’t say they’re automatic, but obviously, they were something special when they were in college, so they get in the Hall of Fame.”

Hatchell has seen several Buffs join the Hall of Fame since he became the president and CEO of the NFF in 2005, including McCartney and six former CU players – Bobby Anderson, Herb Orvis, Salaam, Michael Westbrook, Alfred Williams and John Wooten.

Prior to graduating from CU in 1970, Hatchell was the head student manager of the football team for four years. After some experience as a sports writer, including for the Daily Camera, Hatchell filled a variety of roles at CU, including as the assistant to then-athletic director Eddie Crowder.

During his career, Hatchell has served in various administrative roles, including as commissioner of the Southwest Conference from 1993-96 and the first commissioner of the Big 12 from 1996-99.

While proud to be a Buff, Hatchell said he doesn’t have influence over who will be inducted to the Hall of Fame.

“If you’re not a first team All-American, it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are, you’re just not going to make it in, whether you’re from Colorado or anywhere,” he said. “But I will always say I think it’s very special when a Colorado Buff goes into the Hall of Fame because I think it’s a testimony to not only that person as a player, but the team and the coaches that he represents during that span of time when he was in school, so I think it’s a heck of a deal.”

For those being inducted posthumously, such as Salaam, the NFF turns to the family to figure out how they would like to be represented. In addition to the awards dinner, there will be a campus salute next season and Salaam will be permanently honored at the Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

While details of Salaam’s induction are still be ironed out, Hatchell said, “We just want everybody to feel very comfortable with that and sometimes the schools will help us.”

This year, the NFF is celebrating its 75th anniversary and this will be the 64th awards dinner. The dinner had traditionally been held in New York, but after the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFF was forced to look at other options. The 2020 dinner was canceled, but last year, Las Vegas and the Aria properties welcomed the NFF.

“They were very, very aggressive about staging a first class event and we brought in our team,” Hatchell said. “I think it might have been our best dinner ever.”

For tickets or more information on the 64th annual dinner, visit Footballfoundation.org/feature/NFF2022.

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