When it comes to academics, perhaps no school has produced more prominient members of the African-American community than Howard University. From Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and former UN Ambassador Andrew Young to actors Lance Gross and Tarijah P. Henson, the school's alumni list reads like a "Who's Who" of influential and creative black folks.
Athletically, Howard's history hasn't been as consistent, especially when it comes to football. The Bison have won just two football conference championships (1912 CIAA, 1993 MEAC) in the past 101 years.
Despite that spotty history, Howard has produced one of the most tentured HBCU alumni in the NFL today, San Fransisco 49ers safety Antoine Bethea.
Bethea is one of countless players to come out of Virginia's Tidewater region, an area that's produced players like Michael Vick, Lawrence Taylor and dozens of other NFL and college stars.
While he didn't arrive at Howard as a big-time recruit, he quickly became a force in the Bison's defensive backfield. He led Howard in tackles with 109 as a sophomore. As a senior he picked off four passes and deflected six others while adding 88 tackles in 10 games. Despite his impressive numbers (and a 4.39 40), Bethea wouldn't hear his name called until the sixth round, when the Indianapolis Colts picked him 207th overall.
Bethea not only beat the odds and made the Colts, he started 14 games as a rookie and was a major contributor to the team's first-ever Super Bowl win. He made his first Pro Bowl a year later, on the strength of a 98 tackle, four interception season.
He would continue to be a consistent and stablizing force in the Indy defensive backfield even as the team's run as an AFC power came to an end as Peyton Manning's injuries and age caught up with the team. From 2008 to 2013, Bethea recorded at least 100 tackles in all but one season (he "only" made 95 stops in 2009, but still made the Pro Bowl).
After eight seasons in Indy, Bethea bounced during free agency, heading west to San Fransisco. So far he's been well worth the four-year, $23 million dollar deal he signed with the Niners. He had his best game of the season last week against Philly, when he recorded an interception and forced a fumble in addition to his game-saving tackle at the goal line.
With his NFC Defensive Player of the Week award in hand, it seems like a safe bet that the safety from Howard still has a lot left in the tank.
Another proud member of the #HBCUBrotherhood.