The NFL joined the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) at the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia to kick off their partnership — Strength of HBCUs, Impacting Pro Football Since 1948. The initiative will celebrate and honor the history and impact that HBCUs and their players have had on the game, and will work to increase career opportunities for students and athletic administrators at these institutions. 

The celebration of will continue at Super Bowl LI in Houston. The NFL will honor Legends and historic players at the Super Bowl by recognizing 29 Pro Football Hall of Fame players who attended HBCUs, including Jerry Rice, Michael Strahan and Aeneas Williams. The celebration culminates with an on-field pregame ceremony honoring these players at NRG Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 5. 

“The HBCU influence on the NFL goes beyond the evolution of the game and reaches deep into the very fabric of football, and we are honored to celebrate their achievements at Super Bowl LI in Houston”, said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. “Our partnership with the HBCUs is an important initiative which celebrates the tremendous legacy fostered by these institutions that continue to contribute a standard of excellence and character for our game."

Hosted in conjunction with the Celebration Bowl, the inaugural NFL Careers in Football Forum introduced 80 students and entry-level athletic department administrators from the 23 MEAC and SWAC institutions to career opportunities in professional football. The event featured panel discussions with NFL and club executives, resume- and skill-building workshops, and a behind-the-scenes look into football operations on game day. 

The NFL has a longstanding relationship with HBCUs, which have developed some of the game’s greats, including 29 of the 303 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Black College Football Hall of Fame, announced a partnership that will result in a permanent home for the Black College Football Hall of Fame as part of the new Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio, adding to the history and association of HBCUs and their players’ influence on the game. 

Below is a list of the Pro Football Hall of Fame members who will be recognized at Super Bowl LI. NFL Legends and former Grambling State players, Doug Williams and the late Paul “Tank” Younger, will also be honored in Houston for their achievements and impact on the game.



Lem Barney

Jackson State

Elvin Bethea

North Carolina A&T

Mel Blount

Southern University 

Roosevelt Brown

Morgan State

Willie Brown

Grambling State

Buck Buchanan

Grambling State

Harry Carson

South Carolina State

Willie Davis

Grambling State

Richard Dent

Tennessee State

Len Ford

Morgan State

Bob Hayes

Florida A&M

Claude Humphrey

Tennessee State

Ken Houston

Prairie View A&M

Charlie Joiner

Grambling State

Deacon Jones

Mississippi Valley State

Leroy Kelly

Morgan State

Willie Lanier

Morgan State

Larry Little

Bethune Cookman

Walter Payton

Jackson State

Jerry Rice

Mississippi Valley State

Shannon Sharpe

Savannah State

Art Shell

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Jackie Slater

Jackson State

John Stallworth

Alabama A&M

Michael Strahan 

Texas Southern

Emmitt Thomas


Aeneas Williams

Southern University

Rayfield Wright

Fort Valley State