Black college football still has its place on the sports landscape

Recently, I had the opportunity of attending the Sheridan Broadcasting Network Black College All-American football dinner, which celebrated the brightest and the best on the gridiron at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) from the 2007 season.

As a former graduate of an HBCU, I felt extremely proud to be in attendance with legends such as quarterback Doug Williams of Grambling State, who was the first African American QB to start in the Super Bowl, where he took home MVP honors for his performance in Super Bowl XXII, cornerback Everson Walls of Grambling State, who was a three-time Pro-Bowler and player on the New York Giants Super Bowl XXV championship team, quarterback James Harris of Grambling State, who was the first black QB to start the season under center with Buffalo in 1969 and cornerback Mel Blount of Southern University, who won four titles with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

During the festivities, the Tuskegee Golden Tigers received their black college national championship trophy after pursuing perfection and going 12-0.

Tuskegee's dominance on the gridiron last season is surely one of the many reasons why former Dutchtown defensive end Jermey Brown signed his scholarship letter to play for the Tigers this fall.

HBCU's offer student-athletes a chance to excel in the classroom as well as on the field through skillful coaching and knowledgeable professors with a family-like atmosphere on campus.

Of all of the Clayton and Henry athletes who inked their name on National Signing Day earlier this month, 18 players will suit up for black colleges this season at schools such as Albany State, Fort Valley State, Savannah State, Alabama A&M, Florida A&M, Prairie View A&M, North Carolina Central, Miles College and 2007 black college national champion Tuskegee University.

These young men will now add their names to the legacy and pageantry of HBCU football, which includes festive symphonic marching bands, colorful homecoming parades and heated rivalry games that extend well beyond the field such as the Atlanta Football Classic (Florida A&M-Tennessee State), Fountain City Classic (Albany State-Fort Valley State) and the Magic City Classic (Alabama State-Alabama A&M).

While there is no arguing that the overwhelming talent of college football rest, rules and abides in the SEC, prior to integration, the best players could all be found at historically black colleges.

Although most of their games aren't nationally televised, and they can't compete with recruiting or the resources that are available at D-1 schools, black college football is still relevant in today's sports landscape.

Perhaps, one day our local guys might find themselves invited to a future All-American banquet dinner to honor their achievements.

Legendary coach Eddie Robinson said it best, "If you can block and tackle at Grambling, you can block and tackle anywhere," so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that you'll garnish success in college and beyond.

Rory Sharrock is a sports writer for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. His columns run on Thursdays. He can be reached at rsharrock@news-daily.com