Former Gophers center Greg Eslinger, former Holy Angels and University of Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. and former Wayzata and Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis were among the 78 NCAA Bowl Subdivision players named to the 2024 ballot of the College Football Hall of Fame, the National Football Foundation announced Monday.
Eslinger played for the Gophers from 2002-05, winning the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman and the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football in 2005. The Bismarck, N.D., native was a four-year starter for the Gophers and a three-time first-team All-Big Ten performer. As a senior, he was a unanimous first-team All-America honoree.
Fitzgerald, who had an outstanding NFL career with the Arizona Cardinals, was a unanimous first-team All-America selection and Heisman Trophy runner-up for Pitt in 2003. He also won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver that year and was the first sophomore to win the Walter Camp Player of the Year award.
Laurinaitis was a three-time first-team All-America honoree from 2006-08 and two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He lead the Buckeyes to two national championship games and four consecutive conference titles while earning the 2007 Butkus Award (top linebacker) and 2006 Nagurski Award (top defensive player).
Three players with Minnesota ties were among the 101 players on the Divisional ballot, representing FCS, Division II and III and NAIA programs. They are St. John's wide receiver Blake Elliott, North Dakota tight end and former Viking Jim Kleinsasser and former Southwest Minnesota State quarterback Jeff Loots. Longtime Minnesota State Moorhead coach Ross Fortier and ex-Minnesota Duluth coach Jim Malosky are among 32 Divisional coaches on the ballot.
More than 12,000 National Football Foundation members, along with Hall of Famers, will vote on the class. The NFF's Honors Court, comprised by administrators, Hall of Famers and media members, will deliberate and select the class. The announcement of the class will be made in early 2024.