It’s no secret that historically Black colleges and universities have produced talent that has gone on to the next level despite the fact that most recruits now prefer top ranked football programs. Some of the NFL’s best Black players have hailed from a HBCU, with many going on to the Hall of Fame.
Mississippi Valley State University was the college home to Los Angeles Ram defensive player Deacon Jones and San Francisco 49ers wide out Jerry Rice. Jones was picked in the 14th round and wasn’t expected to figure in the Rams’ plans. The term “sack” was coined by the 1980 Hall of Fame inductee and in 2013, the NFL created the Deacon Jones Award for the league’s sack leader.
Rice is arguably the greatest wide receiver to ever play, learning how to run routes under the coaching of MSU’s Archie Cooley. When he joined quarterback Joe Montana and John Taylor in the pros, they developed one of the NFL’s most potent offenses.
The late Walter “Sweetness” Payton was a powerful running back who first began to gain notice from pro scouts when he played for Jackson State University. As a member of the Chicago Bears, Payton helped the team dominate in the ’80’s. On the other side of the line was Richard Dent, one of the most spectacular defensive players on a squad stacked with talent. The Tennessee State University standout was also the MVP of the Bears’ Super Bowl XX win.
Jackie Slater of the Los Angeles Rams, an offensive lineman that helped make running back Eric Dickerson into a star, was a Jackson State University alum who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
Doug Williams wasn’t a slouch at Grambling State University, but his historic Super Bowl XXII win with the Washington Redskins was unprecedented at a time when few Black quarterbacks suited up for an NFL team. He shined as a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and became the first Black quarterback to win the Super Bowl in 1988 and the first Black player to be named the big game’s MVP.
Green Bay Packers’ Donald Driver was a stud for Alcorn State University, and his Packers counterpart Nick Collins was a star for Bethune-Cookman College. Michael Strahan, a defensive beast for the New York Giants, was a sight to behold as a player for Texas Southern University. Strahan’s fellow player-turned-TV professional Shannon Sharpe was an impressive tight end for the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens, beginning his journey to the pros at Savannah State University.
PHOTO: (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jamal D. Sutter) Public Domain
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