In celebration of Black History Month, NFL Network takes an in-depth look at the legacy of Historically Black Colleges and Universities within the NFL in “Breaking Ground: A Story of HBCU Football and the NFL.” The documentary debuts Friday, Feb. 9 at 8 PM ET.
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.
“HBCUs and their alumni have such a significant place within the history of the NFL," said Brian Lockhart, NFL Media Vice President and Senior Coordinating Producer of Original Content. "This was not only an important story to share with viewers, but vital that it be told firsthand through the voices of the men responsible for paving the legacy of HBCUs in the NFL.”
Through first-person interviews and profiles of four of the NFL's notable HBCU alums, “Breaking Ground” centers around Mel Blount's return to Southern University with his son Akil, and his reflections on his time there with his former teammates. The special weaves in the stories and reflections of Rice, Williams and King, who each look back on how attending an HBCU shaped their NFL journey.
“Breaking Ground” is narrated by HBCU alum and actor Chadwick Boseman (Howard University, '00), who stars in Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther.” Boseman received critical acclaim for his portrayals of Jackie Robinson in “42” (2013), James Brown in “Get on Up” (2014) and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” (2017).
"At the time, I was somewhat embarrassed that they were calling this rule 'The Mel Blount Rule.' My kids love it, and the older I get, the more I start to like it because you know, maybe I had some sort of impact on the game."
Mel Blount, Southern University
"It was my goal to make it in the NFL, I was destined for it. But I think the only way you have an opportunity is that you have to work for it. I think of Mississippi Valley State as a platform and I think it just showed me how you had to work to be successful."
Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State
"Every article in America was written about 'The First Black Quarterback,' 'Washington's Black Quarterback,' 'The Way of the Black Quarterback.' I didn't go to the Super Bowl as a black quarterback, I went to the Super Bowl as the Redskins' quarterback, who just happened to be black. At the same time, I understood the pride, the dignity and the history of what was about to happen."
Doug Williams, Grambling State University
"I do some extreme things, but I know that no other punter in the league is doing. And that's my goal because I just want to stand out. I want to be the best at what I do. Fort Valley State taught me to work real hard. If you decided to keep moving from every situation that was hard, you would never learn, you would never grow. I don't like taking the easy way out."
Marquette King, Fort Valley State
NFL Network’s celebration of Black History Month continues on Friday, Feb. 23 with an encore airing of Breaking Ground, plus “NFL Classic Games in Black History,” reliving Williams' Super Bowl XXII win over the Broncos and Super Bowl XLI — the first Super Bowl that featured two black head coaches, Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts. A new NFL 360 will focus on the importance of Black History Month in the NFL.