Payton, Rice lead first Black College Hall class

Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Deacon Jones and former Grambling coach

Eddie Robinson were among the first set of honorees inducted into

the Black College Hall of Fame on Saturday.

The Atlanta-based Black College Hall was established last

year by former Pro Bowl quarterback James Harris and Super Bowl MVP

Doug Williams. The first class included eight players, two coaches

and one contributor.

Williams, who starred at Grambling, said Saturday’s event was

the culmination of a lot of work.

“Just like you practice for weeks before the season, we’ve

been preparing for this night for a long time, and it’s game-time

now,” Williams said, “We’re inducting some people who everyone

knows, but some who have contributed just as much, but are just not

as well known yet.”

Although several of the inductees have passed away, all were

represented Saturday. Several, such as Jones and Bill Nunn Jr., a

former Pittsburgh Steelers scout, were present. Other local

dignitaries in attendance included civil rights icon Andrew Young

and Falcons owner Arthur Blank.

“You have people like Bill Nunn, who a lot of people have

never heard of, but was so worthy,” Williams said. “He was

instrumental in getting guys from Historical Black College and

Universities such as L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, Donnie Shell and

John Stallworth, guys who were major contributors in the Super

Bowls of the ’70s.”

In addition to Payton (Jackson State), Rice (Mississippi

Valley State) and Jones (South Carolina State and Mississippi

Valley State), the other inductees were: Buck Buchanan (Grambling),

Willie Galimore (Florida A&M), Willie Lanier (Morgan State),

Ben Stevenson (Tuskegee), Tank Younger (Grambling) and former

Florida A&M coach Jake Gaither.

Current commentator and former NFL head coach John Gruden was

the master of ceremonies and said he was among some of his best

friends at the banquet.

“It’s a big honor for me to be here, with a lot of my best

friends,” he said. “I grew up with guys like James ‘Shack’

Harris, I coached Jerry Rice, and I had Deacon Jones come speak to

my team every year.”

Blank was surprised to learn there hadn’t been a Black

College Hall of Fame until now.

“I’m so glad to be here for this night,” he said. “It’s a

unique opportunity and I’m thankful that I was asked to be here,

representing the Falcons, the NFL and this city.”