In light of the Grambling State football team protesting last week’s game versus Jackson State, I was asked if HBCU sports were even relevant in 2013 and of course my answer was yes but if you’ve never been a part of the HBCU culture or understand the history of the institutions this is clearly a valid question.
The first thing you have to remember is that if this were Chowan or Johnson C. Smith the media coverage would not have been as extensive but Grambling is not just an HBCU but rather a national brand i.e. Notre Dame, Penn State, or the University of Alabama.
Growing up in predominantly black South DeKalb County there was never a doubt in my mind that following high school graduation I would attend an HBCU not because I couldn’t get into the University of Georgia or West Georgia but because I wanted my share of the HBCU Experience! As a child my Uncle Elliott would brag about how dominant the Florida A&M College Rattlers were during his college career under the guidance of the legendary Jake Gaither, he taught me about the legacy of not only Gaither but Eddie Robinson & John Merritt.
You see 50 years ago if Gaither, Robinson, or Merritt wanted you to attend their respective schools it was a no-brainer, these guys were the Who’s Who in coaching not just on the HBCU scene but in all of college football because of the success their programs but you have to remember that was a different time in college football because of segregation. From the mid 60’s until integration in the early 1970’s there were over 400 players selected in the NFL draft from HBCUs, following integration over the next 15-20 years there were nearly 300 players selected in the NFL draft, and as of 2013 that number has dropped significantly however, there are a total of 77 HBCU players on NFL rosters right now.
The MEAC has the most NFL players on their roster with 29 total players on NFL rosters, the SWAC is in second with 25 total players, the SIAC has 10 players representing their schools, and the CIAA has a total of 7.
*The 2013 Baltimore Ravens have the most players from the HBCU on their roster with 9 total players. 10 percent of their roster is made up of HBCU players.
HBCUs have produced some of the NFL’s greatest talent:
- Richard Dent, Tennessee State
- Doug Williams, Grambling State
- Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Tennessee State
- Deacon Jones, South Carolina State/Mississippi Valley State
- Harry Carson, South Carolina State
- James Harris, Grambling State
- Bob Hayes, Florida A&M
- Walter Payton, Jackson State
- Steve McNair, Alcorn State
- John Stallworth, Alabama A&M
- Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State
- Willie Lanier, Morgan State
- Shannon Sharpe, Savannah State
- Donald Driver, Alcorn State
Did You Know: Former NY Giants sack master & current television host Michael Strahan is a product of the SWAC’s Texas Southern University?
Strahan set the NFL’s single season sack record in 2002 with 22.5 sacks but this season the record could be challenged by another HBCU product Alabama A&M’s Robert Mathis of the Indianapolis Colts who currently has 11.5 sacks through 7 games.
The Legacy Must Be Preserved:
While top notch African-American players are making the decision to attend the likes of UGA, LSU, and Alabama; HBCU’s are still a great choice for any student athlete aspiring to become a productive citizen, which is what the college experience is truly about whether HBCU or SEC. No matter what the Grambling student athletes gripe is with the university the one thing is for sure is that the Nation is once again talking about HBCUs.
Rob Calloway is the host of the HBCU Report heard Friday nights 7-10pm on 1380 WAOK follow him on Twitter @robcalloway3 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org