The Pro Football Hall of Fame whittles its nominees from triple digits down to 25 this time every year.
Former Raiders coach Tom Flores is almost always on the big list. He had never been a semifinalist despite being the first Latino head coach to win one, then two Super Bowls, winning another as an assistant and playing on an AFL title team in 1967.
The lack of advancement baffles many who believe Flores should be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Flores previously admitted frustration with the process, but never lost hope that one day he would progress further down the selection process.
The time came Tuesday, when Flores was among the list of 25 modern-era semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The news produced an honest reaction from the 81-year-old former coach and quarterback.
"It put a smile on my face and tears in my eyes," Flores told NBC Sports California Tuesday evening.
It brought a renewed optimism that he could advance farther, and finally be inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Flores isn't getting ahead of himself, but he is excited about Tuesday's development.
"I was pleasantly surprised," Flores said. "… I wasn't really anticipating it. I always keep my fingers crossed, and this time it finally happened reaching this level. Now we'll have to wait another month to see about the finals, and if that happens it'll really be exciting."
The list of 15 finalists will be announced in January. Flores hopes advancing this far can spark some momentum to enshrinement.
"I'm hoping that this is the catalyst to reaching the final 15," Flores said. "There's one more vote to hit that mark, and then once you get there you're chances really improve. I've never been this far, so the chances are already up. I'm excited about it. I'm thrilled and honored about it, and all of the above. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. That's all I can do."