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
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
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.”