Atlanta (CNN)If the knock came on their Atlanta hotel room doors, then they would know: They had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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"It caught me off guard when they say the knock is going to be a big, boisterous knock; they weren't lying," said Kevin Mawae, who played center for three NFL teams. "It was thunderous. I was supposed to have my wife record the emotion, but I threw my phone across the room, and I think I had a higher vertical today than I did at the draft. It's overwhelming. It really is."
The class of 2019 will have eight inductees: Tight end Tony Gonzalez, cornerback Champ Bailey and safety Ed Reed, all in their first year of eligibility, join Mawae, cornerback Ty Law, safety Johnny Robinson, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and former scout and executive Gil Brandt.
The group was announced during the taping of NFL Honors, a two-hour prime-time awards special held at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta.
There were 18 finalists for this year's class: 15 from the modern era; one senior finalist in Robinson; and two contributor finalists in Bowlen and Brandt.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame's current bylaws stipulate that between four and eight new members are to be chosen each year. No more than five modern-era finalists can be elected in a given year.
To be eligible for enshrinement, modern-era players and coaches must have last played or coached more than five seasons ago. Contributors do not need to be retired to be eligible. Senior finalists are determined by the Seniors Committee, which reviews the qualifications of those players whose careers ended more than 25 years ago.
To be elected, a finalist must receive a minimum positive vote of 80% during the annual selection meeting, which was held Saturday in Atlanta.
Gonzalez, in his first year of eligibility, played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons over 17 seasons. He recorded more than 50 receptions per year in each of his last 16 seasons (which is second most all-time) including 14 seasons with 70 or more catches. He ranks behind only Jerry Rice in career receptions. His streak of 211 straight games with a catch from 2000-2013 is the longest ever by a tight end.
"From when I retired and found out they were going to have the Super Bowl here, I was like, well, that times out if I could be a first ballot -- if I'm lucky enough to be a first ballot -- it's going to be in Atlanta!" Gonzalez said. "How great would that be?"
Reed's career spanned from 2002-2013, the majority coming as a Baltimore Raven. He became the second player in NFL history to lead the league in interceptions three times, in 2004, 2008 and 2010. In his career, he had 64 interceptions returned for an NFL-record 1,590 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named NFL defensive player on the year in 2004 and was a leader on the Ravens when they won Super Bowl XLVII.
"It's a blessing to get that knock on the door," Reed said. "I got an early knock from housekeeping that started my day off. I was like, 'Not yet.'"
A Georgia native, Bailey's career started with the Washington Redskins before he was traded to the Denver Broncos in 2004. He was a key member of the Broncos' secondary, leading the team to five playoff appearances and four division titles. In his 15 seasons, Bailey had 52 career interceptions returned for 464 yards and four touchdowns.
"This is home, and the timing was just right for it," Bailey said. "Having all my family around, the Bowlen family go in as well, I never dreamed I would be in a class like this."
Bowlen was elected as a contributor. In his tenure as Broncos owner, Bowlen's teams amassed seven Super Bowl appearances and three titles (Super Bowls XXXII, XXXIII and 50). Bowlen ceded control of the team to Broncos preside