Top 25 Black College Football Players Of The Modern Era
Contributors: Russell Clark, Alvin Conteh, Kayla Williams and Jovan Riley
The NFL has taken the locks off the doors and several players from historically black colleges and universities have signed free agent contracts with teams. This got us thinking again. Who are the top 25 players to come out of historically black colleges and universities?
The first thing we realize was the pool was too big. Lets limited it to the modern era. The modern era will be defined as players that attended a HBCU beginning in 1970 or later.
HBCUSportsOnline.com evaluated the players college and professional careers. Were they named to their college all-conference team and did they earn All-American status? Which round of the NFL draft were they taken in and what NFL accolades did they earn; Pro Bowl, All-Pro and Hall of Fame. We consulted sports writers and sports information directors from around the country.
Over the next five days we will release five names per day. As with our other lists, this is our opinion. Feel free to debate. Did we miss anyone that deserves consideration?
Remember this is a “modern era” list. Of course Willie Galimore, Deacon Jones and Mel Blount would have made the list…
Honorable mentions: Antoine Bethea (Howard), Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman),
#25 – Ezra Johnson, DE, Morris Brown
Johnson was drafted in the first round of the 1977 NFL Draft by the Packers and spent the majority of his 15 year career in Green Bay. While they did not officially keep record of QB sacks by defensive players until 1982, Johnson unofficially made 20.5 in 1978. He was named to his only Pro Bowl that same year. Johnson was inducted into Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1997.
#24 – Yancey Thigpen, WR, Winston-Salem St.
Yancey Thigpen was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 4th round of the 1991 NFL Draft. After a stellar career with Winston-Salem State, he went on to collect over 300 receptions and 5,000 yards in the NFL. Thigpen finished his 10 year career with the Tennessee Titans. He was named to the Pro Bowl and All Pro teams in 1995 and 1997.
#23 – Nick Collins, DB, Bethune-Cookman
Nick Collins was an Associated Press third-team FCS All-American selection and first-team All-MEAC honors at the free safety position in 2004. Like Johnson, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2nd round of the 2005 NFL Draft. In six seasons with the Packers, Collins has been named to three Pro Bowls and three All Pro teams. He won the 2011 Super Bowl as a member of the Packers.
#22 – Robert Mathis, DE, Alabama A&M
In 2002-03, Mathis set an NCAA FCS record with 20 sacks during his senior season with Alabama A&M. The Indianapolis Colts saw great potential in Mathis and selected him in the 5th Round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Over an eight year career, Mathis has registered 73 sacks to 36 forced fumbles. He has been named to three consecutive Pro Bowls in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Mathis won the 2006 Super Bowl with the Colts.
#21 – Donald Driver, WR, Alcorn State
Donald Driver is one of the best athletes to ever come out of a black college period. In addition to his standout football career where he averaged almost 20 yards per catch, Driver was a world class high jumper able to clear 7ft. 6in. Driver is the third player on our list to have been drafted by the Green Bay Packers. Entering his 13th year, the 3-time Pro Bowler is the Packers all-time leading receiver with 698 receptions.
#20 Ben Coates, TE, Livingstone
Ben Coates was a two-sport star in the CIAA. Picked in the fifth round of the 1991 Draft by the New England Patriots, he went on to a 10 year career in the NFL. He finished his career with the Baltimore Ravens after catching 499 passes and scoring 50 touchdowns. Coates was named to the Pro Bowl five times and the All-Pro team twice. After losing in Super Bowl XXXI with the Patriots he was victorious with the Ravens in SB XXXV.
#19 – Hugh Douglas, DE, Central State
In 1995 Hugh Douglas was a NFL 1st round draft pick out of Central State (OH). During his college career Douglas was named All-American twice. He recorded 43 sacks in 32 college games. Douglas would go on to the NFL and earn the title of Defensive Rookie of the Year with the NY Jets. Douglas spent 10 years in the NFL with his best years in Philadelphia with the Eagles. Douglas finished his career with 80 sacks, 3 Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro team selections.
#18 – Robert Porcher, LB, South Carolina State
During much of his 13-year playing career, Porcher was one of the league’s most productive and feared defensive ends. Originally a first-round draft choice by the Detroit Lions in 1992 from South Carolina State, Porcher played in 187 games, and set a Lions’ record with 95.5 quarterback sacks during his career. He led Detroit in sacks eight times, more than any Lion in history. Porcher also earned 3 trips to the Pro Bowl and from 1996-01 garnered 68 sacks which were the second-highest in the NFL during that 6 year span.
#17 – Greg Lloyd, LB, Fort Valley State
Greg Lloyd attended Fort Valley State, where he was a three time All-SIAC selection, a three time team Defensive MVP, and as a senior was the SIAC Player of the Year. He was drafted in the 6th Round of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his 10 year NFL career Lloyd had 54 ½ sacks, 11 interceptions, made the Pro Bowl 5 times and All Pro 3 times. Steelers President Dan Rooney once said of Lloyd, “He was one of the best, not just one of the Steelers’ best but one of the best in the league. Greg could play in any era. He has the makeup, whether it’s in 1998 or 1938.”
#16 – Ed “Too Tall” Jones, DE, Tennessee State
“Too Tall” (given the nickname due to his 6’9 height) attended Tennessee State and was the first overall selection of the 1974 NFL Draft. Jones played his entire 15 year NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys. He compiled 106 sacks, 19 fumble recoveries and 3 interceptions. Too Tall was selected to the Pro Bowl 3 times, made All Pro 3 times, and was a key defensive cog of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl XII championship team.
#15 – John Taylor, WR, Delaware State
John Taylor was named MEAC Offensive Player of the Year in 1985 and All-MEAC first team in 1984 and 1985. Taylor was drafted in the 3rd Round of the 1986 NFL draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time All-Pro and a three-time Super Bowl champion. Taylor may be best known for catching the winning 10-yard touchdown pass from Joe Montana during the final seconds of Super Bowl XXIII. He is a member of the NFL 1980’s All-Decade Team and the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame.
#14 – Everson Walls, DB, Grambling State
Everson Walls was a Black College All-American and Kodak I-AA All-American team member during his four year career as a defensive back for Grambling State University. He led the nation in interceptions his senior year. Walls was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1981. He was named to 4 Pro Bowl teams and named Cowboys “Man of the Year” in 1987. Walls is a 2006 SWAC Hall of Fame Inductee.
#13 – Nate Newton, OL, Florida A&M
Newton attended Florida A&M and played for the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, Dallas Cowboys and Carolina Panthers. Newton made the Pro Bowl 6 times and was All Pro two times during his 14 year career with the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to protect QB Troy Aikman and to block for RB Emmitt Smith helped the Cowboys win Super Bowls in 1992, 1993, and 1995. Newton is also a member of the USFL All Time team.
#12 – John Stallworth, WR, Alabama A&M
A native of Tuscaloosa, AL, John Stallworth was an All-SIAC receiver for Alabama A&M in 1972 and 1973. Stallworth was the Steelers’ fourth-round draft pick in 1974. He played in six AFC championships and won four Super Bowls. His career statistics include 537 receptions for 8,723 yards and 63 TDs. Stallworth played in four Pro Bowls and was the Steelers’ two-time MVP. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
#11 – Jackie Slater, OL, Jackson State
While at Jackson State, Slater was selected to the Southwestern Athletic Conference All-Star Game three times, and as a senior was a First-team All–Black America selection. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1976 and played in 259 games from 1976 to 1995, a then-record for offensive lineman. He was the first player ever to play 20 seasons for one team. Slater was a 7-time Pro Bowler, 5 time All Pro Selection, and enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
#10 – Aeneas Williams, DB, Southern
Aeneas Williams did not play football until his senior year at Southern. In that one season he tied the NCAA Division I-AA single-season record for interceptions. Williams was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 1991 and was tied for the NFL lead in interceptions during his rookie season. Aeneas Williams was an 8-time Pro Bowl selection, 5-time All Pro, and a member of the NFL 1990’s All-Decade Team. He is also a member of the Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor and St. Louis Rams 10th Anniversary Team.
#9 – Doug Williams, QB, Grambling State
Doug Williams led the Grambling Tigers to 3 straight SWAC Champions as their QB. He was drafted in the 1st round of the 1978 NFL Draft to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Williams is the first African American quarterback to start in a Super Bowl and be named MVP when the Washington Redskins captured Super Bowl XXII. In 2011, Williams returned to his Alma Mater as Head Coach of GSU Football and was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame.
#8 – Steve McNair, QB, Alcorn State
Steve McNair was a three time 1st Team All-SWAC recipient during his time as an Alcorn State Brave. While at Alcorn, McNair gained nearly 6,000 yards rushing and passing, along with 53 touchdowns and won the Walter Payton award in 1994. McNair was the 3rd pick in the 1st round in the NFL Draft to the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. He was three time Pro Bowl selection with the Titans.
#7 – Robert Brazile, DE, Jackson State
Robert Brazile, a Jackson Tiger was the 6th pick of the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft to the Houston Oilers. He was the 1975 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and spent his entire career with the Oilers. He’s a seven time Pro Bowler and five time 1st Team All-Pro selection. Brazile was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 1995.
#6 – Shannon Sharpe, TE, Savannah State
Shannon Sharpe was a three-time All-SIAC selection from 1987 to 1989 and the SIAC Player of the Year in 1987. Sharpe was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 7th round of the 1990 NFL Draft. He remained with Denver until 1999, winning two Super Bowls (XXXII and XXXIII). Sharpe played for the Baltimore Ravens for two seasons, where he won another championship ring in Super Bowl XXXV. He was selected All-Pro 4 times and played in eight Pro Bowls. Sharpe was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
#5 – Richard Dent, DE, Tennessee State
Richard Dent was drafted in the eighth round by the Chicago Bears in the 1983 NFL Draft out of Tennessee State. He is a four time Pro Bowl selection (1984, 1985, 1990, 1993) and five time All Pro selection (1984, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1993). The two time Super Bowl Champion was named Super Bowl XX MVP in 1985. Dent is a member of the 100 Sacks Club with 137.5 career sacks and was recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
#4 – Michael Strahan, DE, Texas Southern
Michael Strahan is a two time 1st Team All-SWAC selection and SWAC Defensive Player of the Year during his run at Texas Southern. He holds the TSU record with 41.5 career sacks. Strahan was chosen in the 2nd round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He’s a seven time Pro Bowl selection and six time All Pro. In his final season, the defensive end became a Super Bowl XLII Champion. Strahan retired with 141.5 career sacks and holds the NFL record for sacks in a season at 22.5.
#3 – Harry Carson, LB, South Carolina State
Harry Carson became the first MEAC player to win consecutive defensive player of the year honors, and assisted the Bulldogs to consecutive conference championships in 1974 and 1975. In 1975, he was a first team selection on the AFCA College-Division All-America team and set school records with 117 tackles and 17 sacks. Carson was drafted in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL Draft by the Giants. He was selected for nine Pro Bowls and six All Pro teams. As part of the Giants’ Big Blue Wrecking Crew, he helped them win the 1986 Super Bowl. In 2002 and 2006, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame respectively.
#2 – Walter Payton, RB, Jackson State
Walter Payton rushed for more than 3,500 yards, averaging 6.1 yards per carry as a Jackson State Tiger. He was named Black College Player of the Year in 1974. Payton was chosen in the 1st round of the 1975 NFL Draft with the Chicago Bears. During his 13 year career he was on nine Pro Bowl teams and nine All Pro teams. In 1977 he was voted MVP of the National Football League. Payton was a member of one of the most dominant teams in NFL history, the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears. When he retired in 1987 was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 yards. He is a member of the SWAC and Pro Football Hall of Fames.
#1 – Jerry Rice, WR, Mississippi Valley State
At Mississippi Valley State, Jerry Rice was a three time All-SWAC conference player and set all-time SWAC receiving records with 310 career catches. Rice held the NCAA record for career touchdown receptions (50) until 2006. He remains the Delta Devils’ only 1st round draft pick into the NFL when selected by the San Francisco 49ers in 1985. Rice has been named to13 Pro Bowls and 12 All-Pro Teams. He has won three Super Bowls (1986, 1988, 1989) and named MVP of Super Bowl XXIII. He was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in 2005, the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. Rice in considered by many to be the greatest football player to ever play the game.
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