Black college football players and coaches have played a significant role in the build up and mainstay of the National Football League. Without their contributions to the history of the league, it’s a good bet that the NFL wouldn’t be the popular and successful sport it is today.
In fact, Historically Black Colleges and Universities were the main pipeline for NFL talent during its early days as bigoted Jim Crow laws made it largely unwelcome for black players to attend and play football at white universities. That has changed. So has the dynamics of college football.
Many of the top black players today now play football at the very schools that used to deny their entrance, turning college sports into a multi-billion empire. But black colleges are still churning out standout jewels to the NFL as they once did. Surprising to many people is the fact a lot of the top black players in the NFL during the 1960s.1970s and 1980s, came black colleges or universities.
Those players are now being formally recognized for their contributions to the sport of football through their enshrinement at the Black College Football Hall of Fame. Each year, for the last three years, the Black College Football Hall of Fame recognizes these talented individuals. This year is no different.
Thirty-five finalists were recently announced for induction into the Black College Football Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame’s third annual class of inductees will include 11 members to be honored on February 18, 2012 at the Priority Payment Systems Third Annual Enshrinement Ceremony, taking place in conjunction with Black History Month.
The event will be held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.
Among the players that made it as finalists were Steve “Air” McNair (Alcorn State University), tight end Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State), Donnie Shell (South Carolina State, wide receiver Charlie Joiner (Grambling) and Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Tennessee State University).
Pioneering black quarterbacks such as James “Shack” Harris, Joe “Jefferson Street” Gilliam Jr. (Tennessee State University) and Willie “Satellite” Totten (Mississippi Valley State University), also made the list. The Black College Football Hall of Fame was established in October 2009 to honor the greatest football players and coaches from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).
The third class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame represents that with NFL Hall of Fame members Harry Carson (South Carolina State). Willie Brown (Grambling) and Richard Dent (Tennessee State University) added to the list. The coaching and contributor list features the great Cleve Abbott (Tuskegee) and Joe Gilliam Sr. (Tennessee State University). .
Among the notable coaches and players already selected into the Black College Football Fame include Grambling legendary coach Eddie Robinson, Walter “Sweetness” Payton (Jackson State), quarterback Doug Williams (Grambling), David “Deacon” Jones (S.C. State, Mississippi Valley State University), all-time NFL wide receiver great Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State University) and Art Shell (University of Maryland Eastern-Shore), the first NFL’s black head coach in the modern era.
The class of 2012 will include 11 inductees: nine players, one coach and one contributor. A Selection Committee comprised of prominent journalists and football executives chose the finalists from a field of more than 230 nominees, and will vote again in the middle of October to select the inductees for the class of 2011. All living inductees from the previous Hall of Fame classes will have an opportunity to submit their vote on the class of 2012 as well.