Little, LeBeau finalists for Hall
The hall's seniors committee on Tuesday chose the 67-year-old Little, who gained more than 12,000 total yards in the NFL, and the 71-year-old LeBeau, a star defensive back before becoming a coach.
They will join 15 modern-era candidates on the complete list of finalists for the 2010 class, which will be voted on Feb. 6 at the Super Bowl in Miami.
"I'm not there yet, but I'm closer than I've ever been," Little said.
He said not a month goes by that somebody doesn't approach him to settle a bet: which year did you make it into the Hall?
"And I have to tell them I'm not in the Hall of Fame and I've never even been nominated," Little said.
Little was chosen for five Pro Bowls, rushing for 6,323 yards and 43 touchdowns, making 215 receptions for 2,418 yards and nine TDs. When he retired in 1975, Little ranked seventh in career rushing.
He also was one of the league's best kick returners, leading the AFL in punt returns as a rookie in 1967.
LeBeau played for 14 years for Detroit and has been a coach for 37. LeBeau intercepted 62 passes, which ranks seventh all-time.
As Pittsburgh's defensive coordinator, LeBeau has won two Super Bowls in the last four seasons.
"I can't imagine there has ever been a person who has been at that level as a player and as a coach," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "There have been great players who were OK coaches and vice versa, but this is someone who was a great player and then one of the most influential defensive coaches of all time."
Still, because the Hall of Fame requires a candidate to be retired five years before he can be voted in and LeBeau still is coaching, he is being considered as a player.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.