In part two of of examining the All-Time greatest players in HBCU history, we switch to the defensive side of the ball, which also highlights eight Pro Football Hall of Famers. Also check out part one of the HBCU Greatest Players (offense).
Defensive Line – Willie Davis, Grambling State (1952-56)
A two-time black college All-America defensive tackle in 1954-55, Davis anchored the program’s first national black college championship team — the 10-0 squad from 1955. He would go on to be the first Grambling product to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1981).
Defensive Line – Buck Buchanan, Grambling State (1959-63)
Buchanan was an NAIA All-American with the Tigers who possessed the uncanny ability to bat down passes with either hand, while being a disruptive force in the run and passing game. He is one of four Grambling State players to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1990).
Defensive Line – Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Tennessee State (1970-74)
After two seasons playing basketball, Jones moved to football and became a two-time All-American and finished his career ranked third in school history in sacks in a single season (12) and fifth in career sacks with 38.
Defensive Line – Deacon Jones, South Carolina State/Mississippi Vocational (1958-60)
One could argue that David "Deacon" Jones was the greatest defensive end in football history. If they had kept statistics for sacks, his numbers would have been off the charts. Although starting his college career at SC State, Jones ended up at what's now Mississippi Valley State after being thrown out for participating in the civil right movement. Upon being drafted in the 14th round of the 1961 draft by the Los Angeles Rams, Jones would go on to be selected to eight Pro Bowls and five First-team All-Pro selections. Pro Football Hall of Famer (1980)
Linebacker – Willie Lanier, Morgan State (1963-67)
A two-time small college All-American who played for the great Earl Banks at Morgan State. Lanier was one of the first blacks to play middle linebacker. He was selected to eight consecutive Pro-Bowls as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Pro Football Hall of Famer (1986)
Linebacker – Robert Brazile, Jackson State (1971-75)
Brazile was rated as the premier collegiate linebacker in 1974 while playing at Jackson State. He started his collegiate football career as a tight end, but switched to linebacker during his sophomore year. Called "Mr. Versatile", a moniker he earned because of his ability to excel at either the inside or outside linebacker slot. He helped lead Jackson State to two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in 1972 and 1973. He is a member of the Jackson State Sports Hall of Fame, the SWAC Hall of Fame, and the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.
Linebacker – Harry Carson, South Carolina State (1972-75)
Carson became the first MEAC player to win consecutive defensive player of the year honors, and assisted the Bulldogs to consecutive conference championships in 1974 and 1975. In 1975, he was a first team selection on the AFCA College-Division All-America team and set school records with 117 tackles and 17 sacks. Pro Football Hall of Famer (2006)
Cornerback – Willie Brown, Grambling State (1959-63)
The only NFL player to intercept a least one pass in 16 consecutive seasons — and a five-time Super Bowl participant as a corner and secondary coach — never played defensive back.
In college, Willie Brown lettered all four years at split end and outside linebacker, leading Grambling wto its first championship in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 1960. Pro Football Hall of Famer (1984)
Cornerback – Johnny Sample, Maryland State (1954-58)
One of the most feared defensive backs not only in college but NFL history. Sample was also one of the best running backs for Maryland State as he was voted the CIAA Player of the Year in 1955. He was the first player from an HBCU to play in the College All-Star Game held in Chicago.
Safety – Ken Houston, Prairie View A&M (1963-67)
Houston was an All-American who made everything look easy. So much so that for a short period he played center and was moved to linebacker prior to settling in as a defensive back earning All-America honors. Houston also ran track and lettered on the swim team for all four years in college. Selected by the Houston Oilers in the 1967 AFL-NFL Draft, he would become an all-league free safety for twelve consecutive years. Pro Football Hall of Famer (1986)
Safety – Mel Blount, Southern (1966-70)
Considered to be one of the best one-on-one defenders to ever play the game. Blount was an All-American in 1969 while playing both cornerback and safety. He would go on to be a five-time Pro Bowler and play on four Super Bowl championship teams with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pro Football Hall of Famer (1989)