By: Bradford Brooks
HBCUs and their alumni have such a significant place within the history of the NFL. Players from Historically Black College Universities represent nearly 10 percent of the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame, as there are 30 representatives from 17 different HBCU programs. Grambling State, Jackson State and Morgan State lead the way as they are tied for having the most players in the Hall of Fame all having 4 players a piece. Currently in the National Football League there are 17 active players that attended HBCU’s some of these names include Pro Bowlers such as Antoine Bethea from Howard University, Tarik Cohen from North Carolina A&T, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie from Tennessee State. This year alone we saw 2 players from HBCU’s get selected in the 2018 NFL Draft Offensive Tackle Brandon Parker from North Carolina A&T who was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the third round, and also Darius Leonard Linebacker from South Carolina State who was selected in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts. In this list we will take a look at some the greatest NFL legends and groundbreakers from Historically Black programs that includes Jerry Rice, Doug Williams, Mel Blount, and more.
10.)Steve “Air” McNair (Alcorn State): The brother of Alcorn State current Head Coach Fred McNair who is the original “Air” McNair. Was initially offered a full scholarship to the University of Florida to play running back, but McNair opted not to, wanting to play quarterback, he chose Alcorn State University. McNair was a three-time first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference superstar at Alcorn State who set career FCS records with 14,496 passing yards along with the division mark for total offensive yards with 16,283 yards and won the Walter Payton Award which is giving to the most valuable player in the FCS ranks. In the NFL McNair was taken with the third selection overall by the Houston Oilers in the NFL draft and a 12 year pro for the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers and Baltimore Ravens. Leading the Titans to the playoffs four times, and the Ravens once, and played in Super Bowl XXXIV with the Titans. McNair was selected to the Pro Bowl three times, and was an All-Pro and Co-MVP in 2003, all as a Titan.
9.) Deacon Jones (South Carolina State/ Mississippi Valley State): Jones specialized in quarterback "sacks", a term which he coined. Nicknamed "the Secretary of Defense", Jones is considered one of the greatest defensive players ever. Jones' college football career consisted of a year at South Carolina State University in 1958, followed by a year of inactivity in 1959 and a final season at Mississippi Vocational College in 1960. Jones was drafted in the 14th round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. As a defensive end he became a part of the Fearsome Foursome defensive line of the Rams (along with Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, and Merlin Olsen), which is now considered to have been one of the best defensive lines of all time. Jones won consensus All-Pro honors five straight years from 1965 through 1969 and was second-team All-Pro in 1964, 1970, and 1972. He was also in seven straight Pro Bowls, from 1964 to 1970, and was selected to an eighth after the 1972 season with the San Diego Chargers.
8.) Mel Blount (Southern University): A five-time Pro Bowler and a 1989 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee. Blount is considered one of the best cornerbacks to have ever played in the NFL. His physical style of play made him one of the most feared defensive backs in the game. A third-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1970, he had the size, speed, and quickness for the position, plus the toughness and mental ability to adjust his coverage tactics and excel despite rule changes that favored receivers. A Pro-Scouts All-American as both a safety and cornerback at Southern University, Blount became a starter in the Steelers secondary beginning in 1972. That season, he did not allow a single touchdown. Blount, who was named the NFL's most valuable defensive player in 1975 by the Associated Press, earned All-Pro acclaim in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1981. He also was a four-time All-AFC selection and played in five Pro Bowls.
7.) Aeneas Williams (Southern University):At Southern, Williams concentrated on his academics, not playing football until his junior year, as a graduate student. That year, he tied the NCAA Division I-AA record for most interceptions. Despite playing only two years in college, Williams' numbers impressed the then-Phoenix Cardinals enough that they selected him in the third round of the 1991 NFL Draft, Williams quickly established himself with an exceptional rookie season, tying the NFC lead for interceptions. In 1994, he led the NFL in interceptions with 9. Over his career he accumulated a staggering 12 defensive touchdowns (9 interceptions returned for a touchdown, and 3 fumbles recovered for touchdowns), and 55 career interceptions, cementing his place as one of the most dominating defensive backs of his era. He also recovered 23 fumbles and gained 1,075 total defensive return yards (807 from interceptions and 268 from fumbles). He was also a 4-time All-Pro selection. Though the teams he played on rarely made the playoffs (Williams had just 4 playoff seasons in his 14 years), Williams made the most of his postseason opportunities when they occurred, intercepting 6 passes and recovering one fumble in his first four playoff games.
6.) Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State): Known for his loveable personality and comical antics arguing with Skip Bayless on the Fox Sports debate show Undisputed, Shannon Sharpe the younger brother of NFL star and Green Bay Packers great Sterling was one heck of a football player.Sharpe was a three-time All-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection from 1987 to 1989 and the SIAC Player of the Year in 1987. He was also selected as a Kodak Division II All-American in 1989. He led the Tigers' football team to their best records in the program's history: 7-3 in 1988 and 8-1 in 1989. He was inducted into the Division II Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Sharpe was drafted in the 7th round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos, 192nd overall. He remained with Denver until 1999, winning two championship rings in Super Bowl XXXII and Super Bowl XXXIII after that Sharpe had a two-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens, where he won another championship ring in Super Bowl XXXV. A great route-runner who proved that he could make the big plays Sharpe was selected to the All-Pro Team 4 times, played in eight Pro Bowls amassed over 1,000 receiving yards in three different seasons and finished his 14-year career with 815 receptions for 10,060 yards and 62 touchdowns in 203 games.
5.) Buck Buchanan (Grambling State): Buchanan attended Grambling State where he was a letterman in football and an NAIA All-America selection. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996. He is one of four Grambling State players, coached by Eddie Robinson enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Buchanan was the first overall selection in the AFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He also has award named after him The Buck Buchanan Award is awarded annually to the most outstanding defensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision
4.) Doug Williams (Grambling State): Williams is known for his remarkable performance with the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XXII against the Denver Broncos. Williams, who was named the Super Bowl MVP, passed for a Super Bowl record 340 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. Became the first African-American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Williams also became the first player in Super Bowl history to pass for four touchdowns in a single quarter, and four in a half. Williams is now a team executive for the Redskins, being hired for that role in 2014. Williams attended Grambling State University, where he played for legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. Williams guided the Tigers to a 36-7 (.837 winning percentage) record as a four-year starter, and led the Tigers to three Southwestern Athletic Conference Championships. Williams was named Black College Player of the Year twice.
3.) Michael Strahan (Texas Southern): A cultural icon known for his ability to entertain with his energetic personality and his ability to sack the quarterback. Michael Strahan was a two-time Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Texas Southern and holds the school record with 41.5 sacks. Strahan was a second-round pick by the New York Giants who he spent his entire 15 year playing career with. He set the NFL record for 22.5 sacks in one season in 2001. Strahan also led the New York Giants to a Super Bowl championship over the New England Patriots who were undefeated in the 2007-08 season. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and currently is a media personality and a two-time Daytime Emmy Award winner.
2.) Walter Payton (Jackson State): Nicknamed “Sweetness”Walter Payton was a first round pick and played 13 seasons for the Chicago Bears and is number 2 on the all-time rushing list behind Emmitt Smith. Gathering 16,726 yards and 110 touchdowns on 3,838 carries in the NFL. Payton also caught 492 passes for 4,538 yards and 15 touchdowns. Payton helped lead the 1985 Chicago Bears to a 15 and 1 record and capturing a Super Bowl win Versus the New England Patriots. Payton was an all-time great at Jackson State capturing 3,563 yards in his college career. He scored an NCAA-record 464 points on 66 touchdowns. Walter Payton also has 2 awards that are named after him The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award that is presented annually by the National Football League honoring a player's volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field. Prior to 1999, it was called simply the NFL Man of the Year Award. Shortly after Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton died, the award was renamed to honor his legacy as a humanitarian. And secondly the Walter Payton Award which is awarded annually to the most outstanding offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
1.) Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State): The greatest to ever do it many would say as he was voted the number one player of all time on the 2010 NFL top 100 greatest players of all time. Jerry Rice had a spectacular professional career as he is number 1 in every major receiving category that includes receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. Jerry Rice also had an incredible football career at Mississippi Valley State. Rice, a gifted route runner, played for the high-powered offense under head coach Archie Cooley and quarterback Willie Totten. They brought national attention to the Delta Devils’ football program.He totaled 4,693 yards and set NCAA Division I-AA (FCS) records during his four years at Mississippi Valley. He was an All-American with 100 receptions in his junior and senior seasons and in 1984, he compiled for 1,845 yards and scored 28 touchdowns. Rice played for one of the greatest dynasties of all time under legendary head coach Bill Walsh who engineered the West Coast offense that was anchored by Joe Montana, Roger Craig, John Taylor, and Jerry Rice. Rice helped the 49ers capture a total of 5 super bowls and was a first ballot Hall of Famer as he was inducted in 2010.
John Taylor (Delaware State)
John Stallworth (Alabama A&M)
Richard Dent (Tennessee State)
Elvin Bethea (North Carolina A&T)
Ken Houston (Prairie View A&M)
Bob Hayes (Florida A&M)
Robert Brazile (Jackson State)
Art Shell (Maryland Eastern Shore)
Willie Brown (Grambling State)
HBCU SPOTLIGHT TV
Putting the focus back on the greatness of HBCUs. We are putting the spotlight back on the greatness of our HBCUs whether it is athletics, academics, service, music, and culture. We are giving exposure to the culture, togetherness, and phenomena of those colleges and universities, hoping to increase becoming the primary choice for African Americans entering college. As well as those willing to transfer to receive the education and experience.