Former Black College football standouts Walter Payton and Jerry Rice and coaches Eddie Robinson and Jake Gaither are among the 11-member inaugural induction class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
The Black College Hall of Fame, established last year by former quarterbacks James Harris and Doug Williams to honor the greatest players and coaches from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), will honor the inaugural class at its first enshirement ceremony Feb. 20 in Atlanta. The class of eight players, two coaches and one contributor was selected from a field of 260 nominees and 35 finalists.
Payton played at Jackson State from 1971-74 and later finished his pro career as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Payton is already a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Rice had an All-American career at Mississippi Valley State and went on to set several receiving records in the NFL. Rice is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and a finalist for this year’s Pro Football induction class.
Robinson spent 56 years as the coach at Grambling State University, winning 405 games and nine Black College championships while sending more than 80 players to the NFL and AFL. The award presented annually to the top coach in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) is named in his honor.
Gaither won 203 games and six Black College titles during his 25 seasons at Florida A&M. Gaither was famous for saying he wanted his players ‘agile, mobile and hostile.’
Other members of the induction class include:
Buck Buchanan - three-time Black College All-American defensive end at Grambling State, first player selected in the 1963 NFL draft, member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Willie Galimore – three-time Black College All-American running back at Florida A&M in the 1950’s, played seven seasons in the NFL.
Deacon Jones - Dominant defensive end while playing for S.C. State and Mississippi Valley from 1958-60, developed into a Hall of Famer during his 14 seasons in the NFL.
Willie Lanier - A two-time All-America linebacker at Morgan State in the 1960s, Lanier went on to play 11 seasons in the NFL and is a member of the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Ben Stevenson - Earned All-America honors while starring at Tuskegee University in the 1920s.
Tank Younger - All-American running back/linebacker at Grambling State in the 1940s, first HBCU player to play in the NFL and later became the league’s first black front-office executive.
Bill Nunn, Jr. (contributor) – As a former sports writer and managing editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, the driving force behind the paper’s Black College All-America team. Long-time NFL scout with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
For more information on the Black College Football Hall of Fame, visit the organization’s website by clicking here.