Honoring HBCU History
The NFL celebrates its rich history with HBCUs.
Protecting the integrity of the greatest game.
It's our responsibility to strengthen the sport.
Ensuring a consistent and fair game that is decided on the field, by the players.
Ensuring that players conduct themselves in a way that honors the sport and respects the game.
Knees Bent. Pads Down. Head Up.
The NFL is proud of the HBCU professional football legacy.
Honoring the league’s commitment to serve the communities where the game is played.
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Every week, officials take the field ready to put months of preparation, training and hard work on display, knowing that the whole world — and the Officiating Department — is watching.
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The NFL celebrates its rich history with HBCUs.
The elite brotherhood of HBCU players has had a tremendous impact on football and the communities in which they have played, exemplifying excellence on and off the field.
From earning personal accolades, team accomplishments and championships, to positively impacting communities across the country, the rich history of players from HBCUs is woven into the fabric of the NFL.
The all-time leader in career receptions, receiving yards and most career touchdowns (Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State). The player with the most sacks in a single season (Michael Strahan, Texas Southern). The only man to ever win both a Super Bowl ring and an Olympic gold medal (Bob Hayes, Florida A&M). And the namesake for the NFL’s most prestigious honor (Walter Payton, Jackson State).
These are just a few of the accomplishments made by HBCU players in the NFL — and these are all players that are enshrined forever in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
HBCU players represent only a small portion of the total football population, yet nearly 10 percent of all players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame attended HBCUs (30 out of 318 members). Countless Super Bowl rings, Pro Bowls and all-time records are attributed to these athletes; and their performance on and off the field set the standard for generations to come.
In 2016, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Black College Football Hall of Fame (BCFHOF) partnered on a permanent home for the BCFHOF the Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio, which celebrates the legacy of HBCUs on the game. The partnership also includes a traveling exhibit and established a postgraduate internship for an HBCU student.
The BCFHOF was founded in 2009 by African American pioneers and NFL quarterbacks James Harris and Doug Williams. The institution preserves the history and honors the greatest players, coaches and contributors from HBCUs. There have been 64 inductees since its creation.
The NFL recognized the Pro Football Hall of Fame members who attended HBCUs at Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas. In addition to the on-field tribute during the pregame show on FOX, the NFL honored this elite group during the week leading up to Super Bowl LI at events throughout Houston, including NFL Honors. NFL Legends and former Grambling State players, Doug Williams and the late Paul “Tank” Younger, were also honored in Houston for their achievements and impact on the game.
The playing abilities of HBCU athletes is not the only thing that has left a lasting legacy on the league; their commitment to leadership, character, professionalism and community impact has made the NFL stronger as a whole.
No honor represents the exemplary character of HBCU athletes more than the league’s most prestigious and coveted recognition — the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. Named after the legendary Chicago Bears running back and Jackson State University alumnus, the annual award is given to the player who best represents the NFL’s commitment to philanthropy and community impact.
Learn more about the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.
In celebration of Black History Month, NFL Network took an in-depth look at the legacy of HBCUs within the NFL in the documentary “Breaking Ground: A Story of HBCU Football and the NFL.”
NFL Legends and groundbreakers, including Jerry Rice, Doug Williams, Mel Blount and Marquette King, share their stories of the HBCU experience. Each player discusses the impact HBCUs had in not only shaping their football careers, but in laying the crucial foundation for what the NFL has become. The interviews explore the experience of black athletes and the importance of those experiences within the context of America’s history and social climate.