Now that we have counted down the greatest offensive players to come from HBCUs, it is time to shift our focus to the defensive side of the ball.
1. David ‘Deacon’ Jones, DE, South Carolina State/Mississippi Valley State (1970-74)
Deacon Jones was a five-time All-Pro selection, eight-time Pro Bowl selection, part of the 1960s All-Decade team, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980. He spent 13 seasons with the Rams, Chargers and Washington. He is also part of NFL 100 All-Time team. Jones totaled 173.5 sacks in his career, which is third on the all-time sacks list.
2. Willie Lanier, LB, Morgan State (1963-67)
Lanier changed the middle linebacker position for Black players. Before him, NFL coaches considered Black players to be not smart enough to play critical positions such as quarterback and middle linebacker.
He was an eight-time Pro Bowl pick, three-time All-Pro selection, on the NFL 100 team, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. He also helped the Chiefs win Super Bowl IV with a standout performance of seven tackles and an interception to seal the gane.
3. Willie Davis, DL, Grambling State (1952-56)
His career was delayed because he had military commitments, but he was the 181st selection in the 1956 draft by the Browns. Sacks weren’t kept as a stat at the start of his career, but Davis is credited with 99.5 sacks. He is on the 1960s All-Decade team, is a five-time Pro Bowl pick, five-time Pll-pro selection, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1981.
Apparently, an old folk tale states that Packers head coach Vince Lombardi never yelled at Davis because he always played hard and never made mental mistakes.
These two men are members of both the @BCFHOF and the @ProFootballHOF. @SouthernU_BR’s Mel Blount and @MorganStateU’s Willie Lanier enjoying the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic in Canton this weekend. 🏈✨#HBCUs #Pioneers #BCFHOF pic.twitter.com/P0tC1aGBLq
— BlackCollegeFootball (@BCFHOF) September 7, 2021
4.Mel Blount, CB, Southern University (1966-70)
Before Revis Island and Primetime, Blount was considered one of the best shutdown cornerbacks to play the game. He was a master at press coverage and had the speed to recover if you just so happened to beat it.
He was the main reason the 1978 rule was adopted that defenders can only make contact within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage.
Blount is on the NFL 100 team, 1975 Defensive Player of the Year, two-time All-Pro selection, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.
5. Junious ‘Buck’ Buchanan, DL, Grambling State (1959-63)
Before J.J. Wyatt came along, Buchanan was the king of swatted passes. He made it famous in the 1960s because of his 6-foot-7 frame. He was credited with 16 batted passes in the 1967 season and finished his career with 70.5 sacks.
He was the first Black college player selected in first overall in any professional sport. He was a part of the 1990 Hall of Fame class, first overall pick in the 1963 AFL draft, 256th overall in the NFL draft that same year, an eight-time Pro Bowl player, four-time All-Pro selection, and part of the 1960s All-Decade team.
6. Michael Strahan, DE, Texas Southern (1989-92)
Strahan set the single-season sack record of 22.5 sacks in 2001 that is now tied with T.J Wyatt 22.5 sacks in 2021. While at Texas Southern, he set the school record with 41.5 total sacks in his college career.
Michael Strahan Gifts Alma Matter, Texas Southern, New Football Gear
He was a leader on the 2007 New York Giants team that beat the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He has also been a trailblazer with post-career success as co-host of “Good Morning America,” co-host of Fox NFL “Sunday Game Day Show,” “Live with Kelly & Michael,” and has started his own suit collection line.
Strahan is a Pro Football Hall of Famer, seven-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time All-Pro, Defensive Player of the Year in 2001, and part of the 2000s All-Decade team.
7. Ken Houston, S, Prairie View A&M (1963-67)
Houston was three-sport athlete in college. He played football, ran track, and was on the swim team. He was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time All-Pro pick, on the NFL 100 team, Hall of Famer, and is on the 1970s All-Decade team.
#SWAC100 Alumni Spotlight@PVAMUPanthers Ken Houston once held the NFL record for most return touchdowns in a single season.
The Hall of Famer was a 12-time Pro Bowler, tied for second-most selections all-time, and a 12-time All-Pro (NFL & AFL) combined. pic.twitter.com/7LJ7iYxMjA
— Southwestern Athletic Conference (@theswac) July 22, 2020
8. Richard Dent, DE, Tennessee State (1979-82)
Dent was the leading force of one of the best defenses in NFL history, if not the best. In 1985 he lead the Chicago Bears with 17 sacks, two interceptions with a pick-six, and was the Super Bowl XX MVP.
He played for the Bears, 49ers, Colts, and Eagles over his 14-year career. He was a four-time Pro Bowl pick and is a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
𝐉𝐚𝐧𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝟐𝟔, 𝟏𝟗𝟖𝟔
The Bears defeat the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX to win their first ever Super Bowl Championship. Defensive End Richard Dent was named Super Bowl MVP. pic.twitter.com/1MGH2ILYRn
— This Day in Chicago Sports (@ChiSportsDay) January 26, 2023
9. Aeneas Williams, DB, Southern University (1988-91)
Williams was a highlight waiting to happen during his NFL career. He intercepted 64 passes, had 14 defensive touchdowns, and was part of the Rams team that made it to Super Bowl XXXVI. In his later years he made the switch to safety but still was considered as one of the NFL’s greatest ballhawks.
10. Robert Mathis, DE, Alabama A&M (1999-2002)
Mathis set the NCAA I-AA sack record with 20 during his time with the Bulldogs. He then carried that over to the NFL with 123 total sacks, which is the second-most in Colts history. He helped the Colts win Super Bowl XLI. He and Dwight Freeney wreaked havoc in 2000s and 2010s along the Colts defensive line that went to two Super Bowls during his playing career. He finished his career 20th all-time on the NFL sack list.