Black college football has been around for more than a century. It's roots run deep and the tradition is unlike any other in sports. Until the mid-to-late 1970's, most major-college football programs were limited in the amount of black players they would recruit and add to their their teams, therefore the majority of high-talented black players attended HBCU's such as Grambling State, Morgan State, and Florida A&M.
Upon proving themselves at the professional level of the NFL, college football powerhouses began to realize what a commodity they were missing out on. But prior to this time the black college football landscape produced some of the greatest players to ever grace the gridiron. In part one of of examining the All-Time greatest in HBCU history, we first take a look at the offensive side of the ball which bolsters eight Pro Football Hall of Famers.
Quarterback – Doug Williams, Grambling State (1974-78)
Williams was a first-team All-American and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting in 1978. During his college career, he passed for 8,411 yards and 93 touchdowns. In 1988, Williams had the greatest day of his NFL career, when he led the Washington Redskins to victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII.
Running Back – Walter Payton, Jackson State (1971-75)
Payton was a two-time first team All-American in 1973 and 1974. He rushed for 3,563 yards and scored 66 touchdowns setting an NCAA scoring record with 464 points. He set a SWAC record for most points in a game and led the nation in 1973 with 160 points.
Wide Receiver – Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State (1981-85)
With gunslinging quarterback Willie Totten, and a wide-open style offense, Jerry Rice rewrote the record books while playing for the Delta Devils. In his senior season, he caught 100 passes for 1,845 yards and scored an NCAA record 28 touchdowns which still stands today.
Tackle – Jackie Slater, Jackson State (1972-76)
One of the best offensive linemen to ever play in the SWAC (Southwestern Athletic Conference). He was a three-time all-conference selection and was named to the First Team All-Black America squad and an All-American by the Pittsburgh Courier.
Guard – Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State (1963-67)
As an unbelievable athlete, Wright went to Fort Valley State to play basketball. However, seeing his great athleticism caused head coach Stan Lomax to try him out in football. Playing tight end and offensive tackle in college earned Wright a spot as a seventh-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys. In 2006 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Center – Woody Peoples, Grambling State (1964-68)
Peoples was one of legendary coach Eddie Robinson's best offensive linemen. A first team All-SWAC performer who lead one of the most lethal running attacks in school history. He played on the Philadelphia Eagles' 1981 Super Bowl team.
Guard – Larry Little, Bethune-Cookman (1964-68)
Simply put, Larry Little is the greatest pulling guard in the history of the game. He was a two-way tackle and four-time All-Conference performer leading BC to MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championships in 1984 and 1988.
Tackle – Art Shell, Maryland State (Maryland-Eastern Shore) (1964-68)
A two-time All-American as an offensive and defensive lineman in his junior and senior seasons while also earning All-CIAA honors his first three years.
Tight End – Raymond Chester, Morgan State (1966-70)
Chester had the size and speed to run deep routes, which most tight ends of the 1960's weren't doing at the time. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder could also catch passes in traffic. In 1970, Chester was a first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders.
Wide Receiver – Bob Hayes, Florida A&M (1960-64)
Hayes was a multi-purpose player, lining up as a halfback, wingback or receiver. He scored a team-high 11 touchdowns as a junior in 1963, leading the team in punt returns in 1962 and 1963, while leading FAMU in kickoff returns all four years. He averaged an incredible 34.3 yards per return as a freshman in 1961.
Running Back – Leroy Kelly, Morgan State (1960-64)
One of the most versatile runners to ever grace Black College Football. Recruited to play quarterback, coach Earl "Tiger" Banks moved him to running back where Kelly helped the Bears to the 1962 CIAA Championship leading the team in rushing, scoring, and even punting. In his senior year he would average more than five yards per carry and was named the MVP of the Orange Blossom Bowl. He will most notably always be known as the player who replaced Jim Brown for the NFL Cleveland Browns.