Black History Month: The Roy Curry Story by Seth Schwartz

Before James Harris became the first black quarterback to start in the National Football League with the Buffalo Bills in 1969, there were several great college quarterbacks who didn’t get the opportunity.

 Who was the best among them can be left for debate, but a strong case can be made for Roy Curry.

 For two years [1961-62], Jackson State assembled a squad on par with any team in the country.

The Tigers, who were 9-2 and 10-1, lost to Florida A&M 14-8 in 1961 for the championship. In a rematch the following season, they beat the Rattlers 22-6 before 50,000 at the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami , Fla.  

A lethal threat running and passing, Curry was the trigger for a high-powered offense that averaged over 30 points a game. For two years, Curry averaged over 200 yards passing and 100 rushing as the Tigers threw 75 percent of the time. There was no shortage of weapons with receivers Willie Richardson [1,227 yards receiving his senior year, two-time pro bowler, 1963-71], Glouster Richardson [eight years, 67-74], Thomas Richardson (1969-70), tight end Al Greer [one season, 1963] and cornerback-running back-return specialist Speedy Duncan [four-time pro bowler, special teams ace 1964-74], offensive tackle Pappa Hayes [1965-66].

A stifling defense was anchored by: defensive ends Verlon Biggs [three-time pro bowler, 1965-74], Coy Bacon [three-time pro bowler, 1968-1983], defensive tackle Ben McGee [two-time pro bowler 1964-72], linebacker Roy Hilton [1965-75, defensive tackle Frank Molden [1965, 68, 69] and defensive back Taft Reed [1967] all of whom played professionally.

The University of Mississippi and USC both went undefeated and were voted national champions in 1962. It’s hard to figure how Jackson State would stack up against them.

Coming in to assist head coach John Merritt in 1961, Joe Gilliam Sr. was instrumental in Curry’s development. Installing a series of plays that were a precursor to the west coast offense, opposing defenses were outmatched mentally and physically.

“I really enjoyed coaching at Jackson State ,” said Gilliam, now 87, and working on his fifth book. “The kids had a thirst for knowledge and were a joy to work with.

“We used the option, drop back, play-action and rollout. Our plays looked the same when they started, but ended up having a number of options. Our offense was all over the field. Richardson was as good an athlete as you’ll find and could go up and get it. Speedy Duncan was a great player; we moved him around as a flanker and third down guy.

“Curry was a great runner and very tough; he was never hurt. We used him with a naked bootleg, power sweeps and a series of rollouts. He was very accurate and knew where to go with the ball.”

“At that time, the NFL was not ready for a black quarterback, period. Coaches wanted a pocket quarterback. If he had gone to Canada , he would’ve had a long career.”

Gilliam was quite familiar with the NFL’s approach toward black quarterbacks. A star quarterback from Steubenville Big Red High School , Ohio , Gilliam started as freshman at free safety and punt returner while George Taliaferro [the first black to be drafted in the NFL by the Bears in 1949] powered the offense as a running back helping Indiana University to a share of the national championship with Army.

Married with a child on the way, Gilliam received a monthly stipend from a Steubenville businessman-bookie who America came to know as Jimmy The Greek. After a year in the army, Gilliam finished his career as a two-time All-American quarterback-free safety [1948-49] at West Virginia State College in Institute, West Virginia . In 1950, he received a contract from Green Bay Packers owner Curly Lambeau to play safety for $7,000. Convinced he could be a quarterback, Gilliam called Lambeau and asked if he could have a shot at the position.

“I said I’d like a chance to play quarterback,” said Gilliam. “He said, ‘There are no colored quarterbacks in the NFL.’

“I was sure I could play. We threw the ball a lot in college and I said I’d like an opportunity to play quarterback. He said the contract is for free safety and then added, ‘I’ll tell you again. There are no colored boys playing quarterback in the league.”

“I talked it over with my wife and decided if I can’t play quarterback, I didn’t want to play.”

By the early 1970s, the possibility of a black quarterbacking in the National Football League wasn’t a complete misnomer.

For years, star college quarterbacks were forced to change positions for a shot at playing professional football. Harris began his career with the Buffalo Bills in 1969 and had a few successful seasons [including a pro bowl in 1974] as a Rams starter during his 10 years in the league. Joe Gilliam Jr. [1972-75] had a brief run with the Steelers and Doug Williams had a nine-year tenure, beginning in 1978 which included a Super Bowl MVP in 1987 with the Washington Redskins. Warren Moon was not drafted out of the University of Washington and played with the Edmonton Eskimos in Canada for five years before embarking on a 17-year career, [in 1984] which included nine pro bowls and induction as the only black quarterback in the Hall of Fame.

In the last few years, a number of articles and documentaries have discussed the plight of the black quarterback, but Curry’s name never came up. Unfortunately, he was a decade too early. At this point, one can only speculate what type of career he would have had.  

After nine years in the NFL which included pro bowls in 1967 and 68, with the Colts legend Johnny Unitas and the 1970 season with Bob Griese in Miami , Richardson is well aware of what it took to excel.

“ Roy had all the tools to be a professional quarterback,” he said. “He was better than a lot of quarterbacks I played with. He was better than Griese [at the time], Earl Morrall and Gary Cuozzo. Roy could throw, run and had a great feel for the game. He was an accurate passer who had touch and was dangerous running the ball.”

After the 1962 season, a scout from the Canadian Football League told Curry, “You should come to Canada . You’ll never play quarterback in the NFL.”

“I wish I would’ve listened to him; I would’ve played there a long time,” he said.                                   

   Drafted in the 12th round by the Steelers, Curry’s 4.4-40 speed was contributing factor in making the squad. Coach Buddy Parker told Curry they wanted to use him similar to Paul Hornung as a runner-thrower, but his difficulty picking up the blocking schemes translated into a move as receiver.

Pro Bowl linebacker Andy Russell, who played on the Steelers 1974, 75 Super Bowls, was a rookie in 1963.

“ Roy was a gifted athlete who was very fast and could catch anything,” said Russell. “I had no idea he was a quarterback in college. It wasn’t easy [then]. There were very few blacks [Brady Keyes, John Baker, Bob Ferguson, Joe Womack and John Henry Johnson] and coach Parker hated rookies.”  

By mid-season, Curry was finding a comfort zone on special teams and at receiver.

Playing in six games, he made an impression when the Steelers hosted the Chicago Bears at Forbes Field three days after President Kennedy was assassinated. Beating cornerback Rosey Taylor on a corner route, Curry caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ed Brown as the Steelers tied the Bears 17-17. Just over a month later, the Bears beat the Giants 14-10 for the championship at Wrigley Field.

Against Philadelphia the following week with a chilly below 32 degree temperature, Curry was summoned from the bench. Accelerating for an overthrown pass, he pulled a hamstring. In practice the next week he aggravated the injury further.

The following season, his hamstring was on the mend, but not 100 percent and he was released at the end of training camp.

In 1965, Curry tried out with the Bears. Keeping pace in practice, Curry survived a couple bone-rattling hits by rookie middle linebacker Dick Butkus. A strained hamstring at the end of training camp moved coach George Halas to put him on the taxi squad. Curry opted to retire, a decision he still regrets.

“Biggest mistake of my life,” Curry stated. “Halas was doing me a favor; I just wasn’t thinking.”

A few weeks later, receiver Jimmy Jones broke his collarbone during warmups and Jim Hill was activated. Curry came back in 1966, but his hamstring wouldn’t hold up and he moved into coaching.

James Harris was in high school at nearby Monroe , La. , when he saw the aerial show Jackson State put on against Grambling in Ruston .

“You could see they were running NFL routes and the Richardson was a pro prospect,” said Harris, a senior personal executive with the Detroit Lions. “The kind of throws Curry made, you knew he was a special talent and a student of the game. From what I saw he had everything you needed to play in the league.

“You felt bad that you couldn’t find out how good he could be, but Curry was one of many. There was a guy from my hometown, [Grambling quarterback] Mike Howell, who had to play defensive back for the Cleveland Browns [1965-72]. I think there were several guys who were denied an opportunity by the time and the system. I think there was a progression before me and a progression after me. Things really had to be perfect. There was an expression that you needed to have an ooh-wee arm [to make it].”

“You had Matthew Reed [Grambling, drafted by the Bills in 1973, played a year in the WFL and three years in Canada], Jim Kearney [Prairie View, who played 12 seasons at safety], David Mays [Texas Southern, made the Cleveland Browns as a free agent and played 1976, 77 and then one season for the Bills], Jimmy Jones [1973 USC graduate who played seven years in Canada] that might not have been stars, but could’ve back up.”  

Now 71, Curry enjoys retirement with his wife Carolyn of xx years. He lives in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood on the south side. His easy gait and amiable southern demeanor radiates a sense of warmth to friends and strangers. Always meticulously dressed, at 6-0 and still solid 195, Curry looks like he could still get behind center or model for men’s clothes.

It’s a feel-good story for Curry, who made his way out of a dead end. Growing up in Clarksdale , his dad, Lawrence , was a sharecropper and mother, River Lee, taught in a one room school. From age five–fifteen, Curry spent the summer and early part of the fall chopping and picking cotton on plantations in the area which included Hopson, Stovall and the 17,000 acre King & Anderson. The intensive labor helped chisel a physique that held up through many gridiron battles.

The youngest of four sisters and one brother who moved to Chicago before him, at 15, Curry began spending the summer working as a bus boy in Rogers Park on Chicago ’s north side. It was a significant pay increase and a respite from the stifling Mississippi heat.

A four-year starter at quarterback for Higgins High School, served Curry well as he excelled against very competitive schools at Tupelo, Corinth, Avery, Oxford, Columbus, Starkville and Aberdeen.

“The games were very competitive,” said Curry, who lettered in basketball and track. “You had teams with guys who had served in Korea and then came back and were playing at age 18 and 19. There were a lot of tough kids.”   

An assistant for two years at Dunbar Vocational and head coach for Robeson High School from 1969-2000, one of the highlights was his 1982 squad that went to the state championship with only 26 players. Winning 240 games of the 313 games he coached at Robeson [he retired in 2000], Curry was inducted into the Illinois Coaches Association Hall of Fame. A passionate teacher whose affection for the game was palpable, he left an indelible mark on his players and many coaches that he mentored in the Chicago Public League.

“Coach was a stickler for us knowing what to do,” said Mickey Pruitt, who was a running back and free safety on the 1980 group that lost to Mt. Carmel in the Prep Bowl and the 1982 team that had 14 of the 25 players going both ways. Pruitt played three seasons with the Bears and two with Dallas Cowboys which included the 1992 Super Bowl. “In practice we went over play after play so the game was more like a dress rehearsal. We always felt prepared; we knew everything he put together would work well.

“Coach loved to teach and he was always willing to help a lot of the other coaches. Going from what he taught made it easier for me in college [at Colorado ] and at the pro level to pick things up.”

Taking It to the House Goes 1-on-1 with Eagles CB Dimitri Patterson

Taking it to the House’s Lloyd Vance met-up with Eagles CB Dimitri Patterson for a 1-on-1 interview inside Philadelphia’s lockeroom at the Nova Care Complex

After replacing injured former starter CB Ellis Hobbs, young corner Dimitri Patterson has rose to the occasion.  Patterson talked about his journey from Tuskegee to starting in the NFL for the Eagles with insider Lloyd Vance

2009 HBCU All-American Team

Explosive Florida A&M kick returner Leroy Vann is one of several 2009 HBCU All-American team members that NFL scouts have their eyes on

This year the talent level at HBCU’s is exemplary and you can expect to hear some of the names listed on our 2009 HBCU All-American team called at the upcoming 2010 NFL Draft

OFFENSE

QB: Bryant Lee, Southern (6-3, 205, Sr., Boutte, LA) – A finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which is awarded to the top player in the FCS.  Lee was named the 2009 SWAC Offensive Player of the Year after posting passing numbers: 158-of-250 (63%), 2,039 yards passing, 19 passing touchdowns and  7 interceptions with 166 yards rushing and 5 TDs. Finished the 2009 season ranked 10th nationally in passing efficiency and 17th in total offense. Lee is the all-time passing leader at Southern with 7,654 yards.  Had probably his best game of the season in a 34-24 win over Alabama State, where he threw for a season-high 384 yards and four touchdowns. Threw at least two touchdown passes in seven-of-nine games this season.

RB: William Ford, South Carolina State (5-11, 185, Sr., Travelers Rest, S.C.)  — The MEAC’s and Bulldog’s 2009 leading rusher this season produced 1,010 rushing yards while averaging 5.3 yards per carry with 8 TDs.  Ford also is the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher with 4,650 career rushing yards, surpassing the mark of Hampton’s Alonzo Coleman (4,648) set in 2006.  Ford finished 8th in voting for the Walter Payton Award.

RB: LaMarcus Coker, Hampton (5-10, 195, Sr., Nashville, TN) — Began his college football career at the University of Tennessee where he contributed including a 42-yard touchdown run in the 2006 Outback Bowl against Penn State. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s leading rusher totaled 1,027 rushing yards with six touchdowns. Participated in the East Coast Bowl, where he ran the 40 for scouts in 4.28. Also caught a 33-yard TD pass in the HBCU Bowl All-Star Game and finishing with a game-high 82 yards receiving on three catches.

OL: Robert Okeafor, Florida A&M, (6-4, 295, Sr., Jacksonville, Fl)

OL: Xavier Manuel, Alabama A&M (6-1, 307, Sr., Vineger Bend, Ala.)

OL: Steve Brazzle, Florida A&M (6-3, 332, Sr., Coatesville, PA)

OL: Michael Steven, Tuskegee (6-5, 380, Sr., Montgomery, Ala.)

OL: Ramon Harewood, Morehouse (6-6, 355, Sr., Barbados)

OL: Dennis Conley, Hampton (6-4, 303, Sr. Suffolk, Va.) 

TE:  Tony Cotton, Langston, (6-1, 210, Sr., Kellyville, Ok.)  — An emerging tight end, who has good field-stretching ability.  An All-CSFL for the second straight season, Cotton led all HBCU tight ends in receiving yards (601) via only 35 receptions for an incredible 17 yards per catch average.  The Langston versatile pass catcher also contributed 5 touchdowns.

WR: Juamorris Stewart, Southern (6-3, 195, Sr., Baton Rouge, La) Stewart led the SWAC with 81 catches for 1,028 yards and 11 touchdowns.  This big physical receiver, who was quarterback Bryant Lee’s favorite target, finished his distinguished career at Southern as the school’s all-time leader with 201 receptions for 2,668 career receiving yards and 25 touchdowns.  The FCS All-American has been chosen to play in the 4th annual Texas vs. the Nation all-star challenge football game. 

WR: Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M (5-11, 172, Sr., Alexander City, AL ) — A big-play receiver with solid speed (4.57), Harris along with Stewart look to be prime candidates to join a growing list of HBCU receivers making an impact in the NFL including Donald Driver (GB Packers/Alcorn State and Jacoby Jones (Houston Texans/Lane). Harris has great hands and is very good in open space after making the catch. Finished with 2009 receiving numbers: 56 catches for 808 yards, 14.4 ypc, and 7 touchdowns plus averaged over 26 yards per kickoff return.   Harris broke Arena Football legend Barry Wagner’s Alabama A&M school record for receptions.

DEFENSE

DL: Christian Anthony, Grambling State (6-4, 246, Sr., Birmingham, Ala.)  — An incredibly gifted defensive end that reminds some of former Alabama A&M and Indianapolis Colts star Robert Mathis.  Finished fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award and was voted the 2009 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year.  The Birmingham, Alabama native led the SWAC in solo tackles (55) and finished with 76 tackles overall.  Anthony also contributed 8 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, 3 recoveries and five interceptions (returning 2 for touchdowns). 

DL: Junior Galette, Stillman (6-2, 255, Sr., Spring Valley, N.Y)    — A defensive end and NFL outside linebacker candidate, Galette transferred from Temple for his senior season at Stillman. A high-motor player, Galette led the SIAC with 9.5 sacks and also ranked 3rd in conference for tackles for losses (17.5 for minus 100 yards). In just 9 games, he recorded 56 tackles including 37 solo stops. Also had 12 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles plus blocked a field goal.  Galette is clearly on the pros radar as he was recently timed at 4.63 in the forty and has been invited to the 2010 NFL Combine.

DL: Marcus Crump, St. Augustine’s, (6-6, 240, Sr., Pittsboro, N.C) – A lanky high energy pass rusher that reminds me of a young Jason Taylor.  Crump ended the 2009 season finishing 2nd in the CIAA in sacks (10) and 3rd in tackles for loss (15). The All-CIAA defensive end also ranked in the FCS in those respective categories – 7th in sacks and 25th in tackles for loss.

DL:  Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A&M, (6-0, 244, Sr., Grand Bay, Ala) – An explosive pass rusher with a good first step.  Reminds me of Kansas City Chiefs sack man Tamba Hali.  Maddox, a two-time All-SWAC selection and finalist for the Buchanan Award, finished second in the FCS with 12 sacks.

LB: George Howard, Morgan State (6-1, 245, Sr., Chesapeake, Va.) – A tough inside linebacker that has a nose for the ball.  Howard, an All MEAC first teamer, led the conference with 130 tackles (73 solo and 57 assisted) and also contributed 1 sack.

LB: Adrian Hardy, Alabama State (6-2, 197, Sr., Selma, Ala.)  — This outstanding senior linebacker finished with 104 tackles this season to lead the SWAC. Also led the league with 9.5 stops per game and ranked him 34th in the FCS. Posted five double-digit tackle performances this season including a career best 17 tackles against Tuskegee. The strong pro prospect also contributed 10.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and a team-best five interceptions in 2009.

LB: Marcus Jamison, Jackson State (6-1, 235, Sr., Brooksville, MS) – This All-SWAC pick finished with 56 tackles, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble.  Participated in the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game.

LB: Brandon Peguese, Hampton (6-1, 235, Jr., Greensboro, NC) – This high-energy junior outside linebacker and transfer from South Florida led the MEAC in sacks (7.5) and tackles for loss (16).

DB:  Anthony Beck, Prairie View A&M, (5-11, 175, Sr., Channelview, Tex.) — A four-year starter at safety, Beck capped off an impressive career at Prairie View by leading his team to their first ever league championship.  Produced 3 INTs and 48 tackles in 2009.  The Houston native holds the school record for interceptions returned for touchdowns (3) in addition to picking off 11 passes for his career.  Also was named All-SWAC for the 2nd straight season and participated in the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game.

DB: Quintez Smith, Shaw, (6-1, 195, Sr., Dublin, Ga.) – Was named as a NCAA Division II All-American after producing 9 INTs which led the football division and tied the all-time DII record – returned 4 INTs for touchdowns. Finished the season with 49 tackles and scored two other touchdowns on fumble returns. Also had a very good performance in the East Coast bowl.

DB: Jason House, Southern, (6-0, 190, R-Jr., Laurel, Miss) – Named as a 3rd team All-American and All-SWAC, this sticky fingered safety led the SWAC and NCAA (FCS) with 10 interceptions and 230 yards in returns in 2009.  This gifted track athlete and wide receiver turned defensive back also return one of his picks for a touchdown.

DB: T.J. McCord, Grambling (6-1, 195, Sr., Mobile, AL) – A tough free safety who is good in coverage and will also come-up to lay the lumber.  McCord produced numbers of 52 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 INTs (returned one for a touchdown), 8 pass break-ups, and 1 fumble recovery.

DB: Antwane Cox, Bethune-Cookman (6-0, 180, Sr., Miami, FL) – Transferred from South Florida a couple years ago and had an immediate impact.  An All-MEAC first teamer, Cox produced 50 tackles, 2 INTs, 11 pass break-ups, and 1 fumble recovery.   

DB: Terrell Whitehead, Norfolk State (6-2, 200, Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.) — Whitehead was named First Team All-MEAC for the third straight year.  Also was named as a First Team FCS All-American by the AP and Walter Camp Football Foundation.  Finished the 2009 season with 70 tackles, 5 INTs (led MEAC), four pass break-ups, three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Ended his collegiate career as the FCS active leader in career interceptions with 18.

Special Teams

PK: Ari Johnson, Grambling State, (5-11, 180, Fr., Corona, Calif.) – Only a freshman, Johnson led the SWAC and all of HBCU football by scoring an amazing 90 points.  The GSU strong-legged kicker made 18 for 23 field goals attempted and converted 36 extra points plus had 46.0 yards per punt average.

P: Jahmal Blanchard, Hampton (6-3, 182, Sr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) — A three-time All-MEAC selection, Blanchard ranked third in the nation in punting with an amazing average of 43.9 yards per punt. Selected 3rd Team FCS All-American by the AP

KR: LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M (5-9, 179, Sr., Tampa, Fl) — This hard-to-believe former walk-on was arguably the most explosive player in all of college football (FCS or BCS).  Vann, who was featured in Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s SportsCenter, finished his college career as the FCS record holder for career returns for scores (11 overall with 8 punts and 3 kickoffs).  The speedster, who many are comparing with Bears former Pro Bowl player Devin Hester, had 6 return touchdowns (3 punts and 3 kickoffs) this season.  And finished with eye-popping numbers: 28 punts for 462 yards (16.5-yard average) and 3 TDs plus 38 kickoffs for 1,121 yards (29.5-yard average) and 3 TDs.  Vann – 1st team All-American selection in FCS — finished his stellar college career as the fifth player in FCS history to record over 1,000 yards on both kickoff and punt returns.  He also impressed scouts by being named the MVP of the inaugural HBCU Bowl all-star game after returning a punt 81 yards for a touchdown. Vann recently said of his stellar play for a smaller player, “I wasn’t the average size they were looking for. But I think it’s more than size. You’ve got to have no fear. You’ve got to play with heart.”

HONORABLE MENTION

OFFENSE

QB – Curtis Pulley, Florida A&M (Transferred from Kentucky); Dennis Brown, Norfolk State; K.J. Black. Prairie View A&M; AJ McKenna, Albany State; Tim Buckley, Alcorn State

RB – Ulysses Banks, Alabama A&M; Quinn Porter, Stillman; Ramon McElrathbey, Howard; Donald Babers, Prairie View A&M; Demetric Johnson, Albany State; Devan James, Morgan State; Frank Warren, Grambling State

OL – Revay Smith, Grambling State; Joseph Ephrem, Albany State; Johnny Culbreath, South Carolina State; Ryan Cave, Hampton; Nick Royal, Hampton; Colin Cordell, Fort Valley State; Gabriel Manns, N.C. Central; Edawn Coughman, Shaw; Dylan Stivers, Elizabeth City State

WR – Oliver “Tre” Young, South Carolina State; Damon McDaniel, Hampton; Chris Bell, Norfolk State; Antoin Mitchell, Tuskegee; Robert Holland, Chowan; Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M

TE – Jonathan Hannah, Texas Southern; Warren Matthews, Southern; Lamont Bryant, Morgan State

Defense

DL – Justin Lawrence, Morgan State; Sam Washington, Jackson State; Rashad Hunt, Texas Southern; Brandon Fortune, Virginia State; Malcolm Jenkins, Elizabeth City State; Dexter Jackson, Bethune-Cookman; Tyrell Henderson, Kentucky State

LB – Brandon Jackson, North Carolina A&T; Julius Wilkerson, South Carolina State; David Erby, South Carolina State; Marcos Esquivel, Fayetteville State; Julio Sanchez, Hampton; Cliff Exama, Grambling State; Andrew Eggleton, West Virginia State

DB – Rechard Johnson, Alabama State; Michael Higgins, Mississippi Valley State; Kevin Thornton, Arkansas—Pine Bluff; Malcolm Palmer, Jackson State; Markee Hamlin, South Carolina State; Francis Adjei, Delaware State; Roderick Williams, Alcorn State; Phillip Adams, South Carolina St; Antwan Allen, Savannah State; Kerry Hoskins  Jackson State; Ryan Rich  Jackson State; Curtis Thomas  Texas Southern

PK –  Jeremy Licea, Alabama A&M; Justin Castellat , Norfolk State; Austin Turner, Fayetteville State; Blake Erickson, South Carolina State; Trevor Scott, Florida A&M;

P – Carlos Reyes, Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Chance Wilson, Alabama A&M

PR/KR – An’Thon Harris, Fort Valley State; Justin Wright, Alabama State; De’Markus Washington, Texas Southern; Charles Hawkins, Southern University 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2008 HBCU All-America Team

HBCU’s have notoriously been fertile grounds for the National Football League, in fact there is not enough paper in the world to list the numerous players that have made the jump from historically black colleges and universities to excellence in the NFL. 

Super Scouts/Architects Bill Nunn (’70s Pittsburgh Steelers) and Lloyd Wells (’60s Kansas Chiefs) were masters of mining “Diamonds in the Rough” at HBCU’s in helping to build Super Bowl winning teams and the pipeline continues today with players like Jacksonville Jaguars LB Justin Durant (Hampton).  This year the talent level at HBCU’s is just as exemplary and you can expect to hear many of the names listed on our 2008 HBCU All-American team called at the upcoming 2009 NFL Draft. 

OFFENSE

QB: Jacary Atkinson, Tuskegee (6-3, 205, Sr., Valley, Ala.)Was named the SIAC MVP and Offensive Player of the year along with his first team selection.  Led the conference and was tenth in Division II Football in passing efficiency (163.2). Atkinson also led the conference in passing average per game (244.4), passing yards (2,444), passing touchdowns (23) and total offense averaging 316.6 yards per game. Atkinson was named Offensive Player of the week six times this season and became the first player to win consecutive Offensive Player of the Year and MVP honors in the modern era of the SIAC. Tuskegee finished the year 10-1 and won the 2008 SIAC Championship. Led the Golden Tigers to a second straight SIAC championship. Atkinson, 22-1 as a starting quarterback, earned two straight Doug Williams offensive player of the year awards from Sheridan Broadcasting Network and is a two-time SBN All-America.

RB: William Ford, South Carolina State (5-11, 185, Jr., Travelers Rest, S.C.)  — Ford led the MEAC in rushing with 1,499 yards and was tied for third in the conference in scoring (78 points). He carried the ball 246 times for an average of 115.3 yards and accounted for 13 touchdowns. Ford, a junior expected to return in ’09, is just 1,009 yards away from becoming the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher. He was named the 2008 MEAC Offensive Player of the Year.

RB: Javarris Williams, Tennessee State (5-11, 215, Sr., Richmond, Tex.) — Williams helped the Tigers to an impressive 8-3 overall record with a 5-3 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). He was named the OVC Offensive player of the year finishing with a league best 103.7 yards per game with 1,037 yards in 10 games. His 15 touchdowns were also a league best. He finished his TSU career as the All-time rushing TD leader (42) and is now second on the All-time rushing list with 4,329 yards. Javarris had six 100+ yard rushing games this season and twenty such games in his career. He rushed for 1,000 yards three consecutive years. Selected Most Valuable Player at the East-West Shrine Game.  Invited to the 2009 NFL Combine.

OL: Raymond Harrison, South Carolina State (6-2, 275, Sr., Columbia, S.C.) — Harrison was a key performer in one of the most dominating offensive attacks in the MEAC this season.  The Bulldogs’ third consecutive MEAC Lineman of the Year winner, Harrison aided SCSU’s offense to 4,972 yards of total offense including 2,651 yards on the ground. 

OL: Dwayne Frost, Bowie State (6-6, 300, Sr., Largo, MD)

OL: Cornelius Lewis, Tennessee State (6-5, 310, Sr., Jacksonville, Fla.) — This former transfer from Florida State was selected first team for the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC). Played in Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game and was also invited to the 2009 NFL Combine.

OL: Michael Steven,

Tuskegee (6-5, 380, Jr., Montgomery, Ala.)

OL: Adrian Brown, Delaware State (6-6, 327, Sr.)

OL: Dennis Conley, Hampton (6-4, 303, Sr. Suffolk, Va.) 

TE: Octavius Darby, South Carolina State (6-4, 240, Sr., Hollywood, Fla.)  — Selected to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) First Team. This “Alge Crumpler” type tight end had 31 receptions for 518 yards and 12 TD’s.

WR: Justin Brown, Hampton (6-2, 200, Sr., Dover, N.J.) — Led the MEAC in receiving yards (887), averaging 80.6 per game, and was second in the conference in catches per game with 5.1

WR: Raytron Mayfield, Langston (6-1,205, Sr., Dallas, TX) —Mayfield had 799 yards receiving on 59 catches with nine touchdowns. Plus an additional 165 yards rushing with three touchdowns and he also threw for 77 yards and one touchdown. Led the Lions in scoring with 76 points. Was selected First-Team All-CSFL (Central States Football League Conference). Also guided the Lions to the NAIA National Playoffs second round and an 11-2 record. 

DEFENSE

DL Chris Baker Hampton (6-2, 305, Jr., Windsor, Conn.) — This former transfer from Penn State was selected first team for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). Baker led the Pirates and the MEAC with 8.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 13 quarterback hurries, to go along with 69 tackles – the third-highest total on the team. Invited to the 2009 NFL Combine.

DL: Louis Ellis, Shaw (6-4, 295, Sr., Jackson, Miss.) — Was named CIAA Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year as Shaw won their second consecutive CIAA Championship. This season he anchored the Shaw Bears defensive unit to the national number one spot of the NCAA Division II in total defense (#1), rushing defense (#1), tackles for a loss (#1). Louis was the CIAA’s leader in tackles for loss (16 solo and 8 assisted) and was second in the conference with 8 sacks. He was also credited with 60 total tackles. Played in Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game.

DL: Richard Washington, Clark-Atlanta University (6-3, 305, Sr., Miami, FL) — An All-SIAC first teamer, Washington had a big day at the East Coast All Star game, finishing with a couple sacks and several other key stops.

DL: David Williams, Kentucky State (6′-3, 240, Sr. Detroit, MI) — All-SIAC first teamer had 51 TKLS, 5.5 Tackles for Loss, 2.5 sacks, and 2 FF

DL: Marcus Benard, Jackson State (6-4, 260, Sr., Ypsilanti, Mi.) — The senior defensive end led the SWAC with 15 sacks (which is first in the SWAC and second in FCS), as well as leading the SWAC with 22.5 tackles for loss. He also recorded season highs of 17 tackles against Ala. A&M, five sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss against Ala. A&M.

DL: Christian Anthony, Grambling State (6-4, 246, Jr., Birmingham, Ala.)  — Anthony had 48 tackles with 14 tackles for loss.  He also amassed six sacks, broke up five passes and had 2 INTs in 12 games played.

LB: Jeffrey Cargile, Morehouse (5-9,200, Sr. Cincinnati, OH —Won the SIAC Defensive Player of the Year award after leading Division II and the conference in sacks (12.5). Cargile also led Division II and the conference in tackles for a loss (23.0) and finished the season with 99 tackles. Morehouse finished the 2008 campaign with a 6-4 record over-all and 6-3 in the SIAC for a second place finished.

LB: Marcellus Speaks, Jackson State (6-2, 230, Sr., Jackson, Miss.) — Speaks led the SWAC with 115 tackles (54 solo; 20.5 for loss), along with 5.0 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles, and one blocked kick in leading the Tigers to the SWAC Championship Game for the second consecutive year. He was named SWAC Defensive Player of the Year and he also had Player of the Week honors three times this season. Speaks made a season-high 16 tackles (with 1.0 for loss with 0.5 sacks) vs. Southern (Oct. 4)

LB: Endor Cooper, Howard (6-3, 245, Sr., Woodbridge, Va.) — An All-MEAC Conference first team player. This senior middle linebacker had an outstanding season leading the MEAC in total tackles per game with 11.4 and in forced fumbles with four. Also finished tied for third in tackles for losses in the MEAC. Recorded double digits in tackles in nine of 11 games played.

LB: Jarrell Guyton, Morgan State (6-0, 225, Sr., Miami, Fl) — The MEAC’s Defensive Player of the Year honor after leading one of the most dominating defensive units in the FCS. For the second year in a row the Morgan State Bears led the FCS in total defense giving up less than 213.4 yards per game. Guyton collected 35 solo and 35 unassisted tackles for the Bears this season. He put up numbers in almost every defensive statistical category including 70 total tackles, 13 tackles for a loss of 41 yards, four sacks for a 22 yard loss, one interception for a 22 yards return, three broken up passes, one hurry, and one forced and recovered fumble.

DB:  Rodrick Jones, Elizabeth City State University (5-11, 179, Sr.) — Was the MVP of the CIAA Championship Game finishing his last collegiate game with 9 tackles, a fumble recovery and two pass breakups.  Had an interception in the East Coast Bowl and will play in the Cactus Bowl. Runs in the 4.6 range in the forty.

DB: Domonique Johnson, Jackson State (6-2, 200, Sr. Texas City, Tex.)  — This All-SWAC performer was originally signed and played for Missouri, leaving for undisclosed reasons after the 2006 season. One of the best defensive backs in the upcoming NFL draft, Johnson finished his senior year with a team high four interceptions (returned one for a touchdown) and a league high 13 pass break-ups. Had his best game against Mississippi Valley State recording 10 tackles and 2 INTs.  Extremely fast as Johnson has been clocked in the 4.35 to 4.4 range in the forty. Played in the 2009 Senior Bowl and was also invited to the 2009 NFL Combine.

DB: Eddie Young, Fort Valley State (6-0, 205, Sr., Macon, GA — A physical tough safety chosen first team All-SIAC.  Participated in the East Coast Bowl and is considered a Pro Prospect at safety running a 4.65 in the forty-yard dash.

DB: Gregory Toler, Saint Paul’s (6-1, 185, Sr., Washington, D.C.)  — 2008 All-CIAA selection – Toler participated in the East Coast and Cactus Bowl All Star games after leading the CIAA with 6 INTs (ranked third in NCAA DII) and 19 passes defended.

DB: Niles Rainey, Virginia Union (5-10,165, Sr., College Park, GA) — Rainey had a very good season for VUU despite playing in a strange rotation.  The Georgia native finished with 3 INTs.  He was named CIAA Defensive Back of the Week, for the week ending on October 18, 2008 for his defensive efforts in a 68-6 victory over Lincoln University (Pa).  In the Lincoln game, Rainey recorded 2 touchdowns (one on a fumble recovery and the other on an interception).

DB: Terrell Whitehead, Norfolk State  (6-2, 200, Jr., Virginia Beach, Va) — Whitehead was named First Team All-MEAC for the second straight year after having the second-most passes defended (15) of any MEAC player.  He also tallied four interceptions (13 for his career ranking him 3rd in MEAC history) and 11 pass deflections. The physical junior defensive back led NSU and ranked seventh in the MEAC with 83 tackles.

Special Teams

PK: Brandon Gilbert, North Carolina Central (5-10, 190, Sr. Graham, NC) — School’s all-time leading scorer and holds school records for career Field Goals made, extra point kicks made, single-season field goals made, extra point kicks made (48), and record for field goals made in a game (4). Booted the longest field goal in school history with a 51-yard last-second, game-winning kick in the 2006 CIAA Championship Game (Nov. 11).

P: Jahmal Blanchard, Hampton (6-3, 182, Jr., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) — Averaged an amazing 43.1 yards per punt

KR: William Osbourne, Texas Southern (5-7, 160, Jr., Marshall, TX) — This explosive all-purpose player made an impact all over field averaging 192.3 yards per game.  Was TSU main receiving threat producing 82 catches for 1092 yards and 7 TD’s while averaging 15.9 yards per punt returns and 22.5 on kickoffs.

PR: Jeremy Gilchrist, Hampton (5-10, 174, Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.) — This transfer from Virginia Tech is a very explosive return man with top-level speed.  Averaged 15.6 yards per return and had 3 TD’s in ’08.

HONORABLE MENTION

OFFENSE

QB – Bryant Lee, Southern; Curtis Rich, Elizabeth City State; Bobby Reid, Texas Southern (Transferred from Texas Southern); Antonio Hefner, Tennessee State (Transferred from South Carolina); Kisan Flakes, Albany State (Transferred from Illinois); Lamar Little, Virginia Union; Carlton Hill, Miles College (Transferred from South Florida)

RB – Devan James, Morgan State; Winston Thompson, Clark Atlanta University; Michael Wright, Kentucky State University; Taron Hampton, Virginia State, Tarian Donaldson, Virginia Union; Kareem Jones, Delaware State; DeAngelo Branche, Norfolk State

OL – Revay Smith, Grambling State; Cleveland Collie, Prairie View A&M; Oliver Pazdry, Shaw; Robert Okeafor, Florida A&M

WR – Dexter Manley, Elizabeth City State; Jason English, Tuskegee; Thomas Harris, Alabama A&M; Juamorris Stewart, Southern
Defense

DL – Jarvis DeVaughan, Tuskegee; Justin Lawrence, Morgan State; Sammie Lee Hill, Stillman (Invited to the 2009 NFL Combine); Melvin Matthews, Grambling State; Vincent Lands, Southern; Jeremy Maddox, Alabama A&M; Marcus Kennedy St. Augustine’s
LB – Zach East, Prairie View A&M; Travis Roland, Bethune-Cookman; Lee Robinson, Alcorn State (Played in Texas vs. the Nation All-Star Game and was also invited to the 2009 NFL Combine)

DB – Dre’Mail Hardin, Stillman; Darnell Brown, Langston; Anthony Beck, Prairie View A&M; Justin Hamilton, Elizabeth City State; Jeff Franklin, Central State; Darren McKhan, Morgan State; Enrique Cox, Virginia Union; Al Donaldson, Alabama AM; Stephen Jackson, Fort Valley; Don Carey, Norfolk State

PK: Jeremy Licea, Alabama A&M

KR: LeRoy Vann, Florida A&M

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Restoring the Roar – Lincoln University (PA) Returns to the Gridiron

Lincoln University (PA) one of the original HBCU football giants returns to action on August 30, 2008 for the first time in 48 years as they host George Mason

By Lloyd Vance, Football Historian

(Philadelphia, Pa) – When most people think of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) football, first thoughts usually conjure up images of an electric atmosphere, pageantry, precision marching bands, camaraderie in the stands, rivalry games called “Classics” and legendary coaches like Grambling State’s Eddie Robinson, Tennessee State’s John Merritt, Florida A&M’s Jake Gaither, Cheyney State/Central State/Florida A&M’s Billy Joe and Morgan State’s Earl Banks patrolling the sidelines versus each other.  But a new chapter in HBCU football history will emerge on August 30, 2008 as upstart head coach O.J. Abanishe leads sleeping HBCU football giant Lincoln University (PA) “Back to the Future” by returning to the gridiron for the first since 1960. Continue reading

Restoring the Roar – Part 2

Lincoln University (PA) will return to the gridiron for the first time in 48 years on August 30, 2008.  Hopefully the return of Lincoln football will also rekindle their great rivalry with Howard University in the near future.  This photo is from the 1948 Lincln-Howard game played at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC

Restoring the Roar Part (PART 2)

by Lloyd Vance, Football Historian

The annual Howard-Lincoln homecoming football game also was an “institution” every November for spectators and was considered the crown jewel of northern African American culture — the 1927 game flyer even said of the Lincoln-Howard classic, “If you are progressive, you’ll be there”.  The “big game” was so gigantic that entire African American communities in the Mid-Atlantic region practically shutdown for one week a year just for the event.  In it’s heyday (20’s, 30’s, and 40’s) the Lincoln-Howard Classic brought people from far and wide (some folks even came from California just for the game) by bus, car, plane, and special event trains called “Flyers” that had distinct heritage routes.  It didn’t matter if you were an alum or subway alumni (term created for non-college attendees that still heartily rooted for a particular school), as everyone wanted yearly bragging rights for the “homecoming” rivalry game in places like black owned businesses, churches, alumni/fraternity/sorority functions, social clubs, watering holes, barbershops, beauty salons, public transportation, and any other setting where African Americans congregated. Continue reading

Timeline of Lincoln University (PA) Football

By Lloyd Vance, Football Historian

  • 1854 – Lincoln University (PA) is founded as Ashmun Institute by Rev. John Miller Dickey, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson (a Quaker) and named after Jehudi Ashmum, a religious leader and social reformer

 

  • 1865 – The Civil War ends with General Lee surrendering to General Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865

 

  • 1866 – Ashmun Institute is renamed “Lincoln University” after the death of President Abraham Lincoln on April 15, 1865

 

  • 1869 – On November 6, 1869, Northeastern predominantly white universities   Rutgers and Princeton play the first organized football game ever on

 

  • 1892 – On November 23, 1892 (Thanksgiving), the first organized football game between two predominantly African American teams is played by southern schools Biddle (Later Johnson C. Smith) and Livingstone on a rainy afternoon.  Biddle wins the game by a score of 4-0, however the game was largely unnoticed except for the sparse crowd in attendance. 

 

  • 1894 – In November, Mid-Atlantic schools Lincoln University (PA) and friendly rival school Howard University of Washington DC become the first two African American schools to play organized football in the North with the Lincoln Lions winning by a score of 6-5 over the Howard Bison.  Continue reading