Honoring HBCU History

The NFL celebrates its rich history with HBCUs.

The contribution of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to the NFL has changed the game forever.

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.

HBCU PLAYERS ENSHRINED IN THE HALL OF FAME

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.

HBCU Athletes in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Lem Barney, Jackson State - Hall of Fame Class of 1992
Elvin Bethea, North Carolina A&T - Hall of Fame Class of 2003
Mel Blount, Southern University - Hall of Fame Class of 1989
Robert Brazile, Jackson State - Hall of Fame Class of 2018
Roosevelt Brown, Morgan State - Hall of Fame Class of 1975
Willie Brown, Grambling State - Hall of Fame Class of 1984
Buck Buchanan, Grambling State - Hall of Fame Class of 1990
Harry Carson, South Carolina State - Hall of Fame Class of 2006
Willie Davis, Grambling State - Hall of Fame Class of 1981
Richard Dent, Tennessee State - Hall of Fame Class of 2011
Len Ford, Morgan State - Hall of Fame Class of 1976
Bob Hayes, Florida A&M - Hall of Fame Class of 2009
Ken Houston, Prairie View A&M - Hall of Fame Class of 1986
Claude Humphrey, Tennessee State - Hall of Fame Class of 2014
Charlie Joiner, Grambling State - Hall of Fame Class of 1996
Deacon Jones, Mississippi Valley State - Hall of Fame Class of 1980
Leroy Kelly, Morgan State - Hall of Fame Class of 1994
Willie Lanier, Morgan State - Hall of Fame Class of 1986
Larry Little, Bethune-Cookman - Hall of Fame Class of 1993
Marion Motley, South Carolina State - Hall of Fame Class of 1968
Walter Payton, Jackson State - Hall of Fame Class of 1993
Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State, Hall of Fame Class of 2010
Shannon Sharpe, Savannah State - Hall of Fame Class of 2011
Art Shell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore - Hall of Fame Class of 1989
Jackie Slater, Jackson State - Hall of Fame Class of 2001
John Stallworth, Alabama A&M - Hall of Fame Class of 2002
Michael Strahan, Texas Southern - Hall of Fame Class of 2014
Emmitt Thomas, Bishop - Hall of Fame Class of 2008
Aeneas Williams, Southern University - Hall of Fame Class of 2014
Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State - Hall of Fame Class of 2006

BLACK COLLEGE FOOTBALL HALL OF FAME

2018 Black College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

2018 Black College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

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.

Doug Williams, former Grambling State University quarterback, was the first African-American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

HBCU CELEBRATION AT SUPER BOWL LI 

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.

EXCELLENCE IN THE COMMUNITY

Nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award wear a trophy silhouette patch on their jerseys to recognize their contributions. 

Nominees for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award wear a trophy silhouette patch on their jerseys to recognize their contributions. 

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.

BREAKING GROUND: A STORY OF HBCU FOOTBALL AND THE NFL

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. 

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