BASN’s All HBC-Universe Team, Part V

The All HBC – Universe Team, Part V

By Michael-Louis Ingram, Editor

BASN

(first presented March 21, 2009)

 

Black College FootballPHILADELPHIA (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM)— As we carry on with our All – Universe stars, we have crossed an important plateau. Our intent with this effort is to recognize all the great players whose contributions have made football the number one spectator sport in America.

The effect of these Black gridiron heroes, and especially those who came from HBCUs, have changed and upgraded the climate of competition, shattered racial barriers and nullified stereotypes, albeit to great resistance.

Using a data base which goes from “back in the day” to “just the other day” a formation of 11 full squads (complete with offense, defense and special teams) has presented a treasure trove of talent covering seven decades.

As our countdown has moved up on the way to the first team, we have recognized players who have participated in the National Football League, American Football League, Canadian Football League, semi-pro, Arena League, NFL Europe – and one special brother (Gene Mingo) who never played at an HBCU; but not from want or desire – Mr. Mingo served our country; and as one of the impact performers in the early stages of the AFL, we at BASN have chosen to recognize him.

Our last two teams began the debate as to the worthiness of certain players for admission into the American & Canadian pro football halls of fame.

But now, we come into a different dilemma; making the case for some of our guys in the smoke – filled room would likely fall on deaf ears because many who saw these guys play are gone; but also because a new generation of onlookers could care less, showing their disdain for research unless it has to do with fantasy football.

Well, this is no fantasy; the reality is now every player we denote from here forward is a Hall of Famer – the burning question will now be – will they finally get their just due before or after they die?

With the process behind selection and ascension being somewhat skewed due to politics, limitation of selections per year and other rationale that stray from bringing in those most worthy, a backlog of HOF ready players has built up – and this backlog further muddies and strangles the possibilities of these great men smelling their roses before they are placed over their graves.

We’ve also had some of our in – house experts, former pro players and coaches offer their insight as well; so as you see other connotations in the Scout’s Notes or a reply from one of our guest contributors, consider this as our gospel reply that Canton, Ohio or Hamilton, Ontario is in their future…

All players denoted with an asterisk {*} are BASN designated Hall of Famers; any with two asterisks are BASN Canadian Football Hall of Famers.

FOURTH TEAM:

HEAD COACH, WILLIE JEFFRIES, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE

Scout’s Notes: Jeffries, a native of South Carolina, put the bite in Bulldogs’ history as their greatest coach. Over 29 years, his record (157-100-4) at SCSU and Howard belied his true coaching acumen. Jeffries won seven MEAC Championships and three Black National Championships.

In an historic move that smacked of the great Satchel Paige coming into the white world of baseball as a 42 year old “rookie,” Jeffries would become the first African-American to coach a Division I school in 1979, manning the sidelines for Wichita State University for five seasons, including an 8-2 season in 1982.

Coach Jeffries also completed a rare coaching legends’ double, matching wits with Grambling State’s Eddie Robinson and Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant; although the Bear knew enough not to mess with any of the early Jeffries’ manned Bulldog teams.

OFFENSE

QB: JOE GILLIAM, TENNESSEE STATE

Scout’s notes: Never mind the arm, the field vision, the presence in the pocket, and football savvy. Gilliam’s dad was a coach, and had these same circumstances been under a different hue, there would be no crying about what should have been.

This much we know as fact, as a pro he came in with more college All – American credentials than any other Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback, in spite of being drafted in the 11th round (1972) and listed as last on the position depth chart; won the starting job and was benched after leading the Steelers to a 4-1-1 record; the first time in my recollection a QB with a winning percentage of over 70% was benched…for nothing.

OFFENSIVE LINE

OL: JAIME NAILS, FLORIDA A&M

OL: AUTREY LANE HOWELL, GRAMBLING STATE

OL: TYRONE MC GRIFF, FLORIDA A&M

OL: JAMIE BROWN, FLORIDA A&M

OL: WALLY WILLIAMS, FLORIDA A&M

Scout’s Notes: As we alluded earlier, the Rattlers without question have put more quality offensive linemen in pro football than any other HBCU – don’t hate, Grambling State, but it sure looks that way; Howell played offensive and defensive line in the pros, spending most of his career with the New York Giants.

RECEIVERS:

TE: JIM MITCHELL, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M

WR: HAROLD CARMICHAEL, SOUTHERN*

WR: WARREN WELLS, TEXAS SOUTHERN

Scout’s notes: Mitchell was the first of the great tight ends in Atlanta Falcons history, and the first true offensive impact player for the franchise; prototype height and size for his time, he was a load to bring down and an excellent blocker; although overlooked in the era because of tight ends like Charles Sanders, Jackie Smith, Ray Chester, Mike Ditka and John Mackey, he still managed to make two Pro Bowls.

John Madden : (excerpted from ‘The Best We Never Saw’) “I’ve been blessed with being able to be around and coach some great players,” prefaced Madden, “but one guy that fit the criteria you’re asking about would be Warren Wells, who was a wide receiver for us.

“Wells was a great receiver, great hands and extremely fast. I think in 1969 he had one of the best statistical years of any receiver the Raiders ever had (47 receptions, 1,260 yards, 14 touchdowns and an average of 26.8 yards per catch).

“Warren had some personal problems that plagued him over part of his career, and kinda had it cut short. While there are a couple more I could think of, Warren Wells, by far was the one who should’ve ended up as one of the best—because he had the talent for the game.”

Lloyd Vance : Young folks being young folks seem to believe that the “big” receiver in the NFL started with guys like New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress (6-foot-6). But Plaxico, the Buffalo Bills’ James Hardy (6=foot-7), and all of the other receivers with size are all following in the giant footsteps of receiver Harold Carmichael.

Drafted in the seventh round in 1971 by the Philadelphia Eagles, Carmichael was blessed with tremendous height (6-feet-8), a long wingspan, and huge hands that made him an exceptional Pro Bowl level receiver for the Eagles over 14 years.

Known for his tough physical style of receiving, Carmichael was an extremely difficult match-up for smaller corners in the NFL especially in the red zone, where he was great at catching the alley – oop pass {now called the fade route}.

Starting in 1973, Carmichael established himself as an upper echelon receiver catching 67 passes for 1,116 yards and 9 TDs in his first Pro Bowl season. Big Harold went on to play in four Pro Bowls in 1973, 1978, 1979, and 1980 plus he was selected All-NFC several times and is a member of the All-Decade Team for the 19’70s.

His greatest season may have been in 1980 when he provided solid veteran leadership for Dick Vermeil’s NFC Champion squad that played in Super Bowl XV against the Raiders, finishing with 6 catches for 91 yards in the game.

Carmichael at one time held the NFL record for most consecutive games with a catch (127) that spanned 8 seasons and I can still remember the gigantic trophy that the team gave him when he set the record (sits in the Hall of Fame).

Carmichael, now the Eagles Player Development Director, finished his playing career with 590 receptions for 8,985 yards with 79 career touchdowns (ranked 18th All-time).

RUNNING BACKS

RB: PAUL “TANK” YOUNGER, GRAMBLING*

RB: EMERSON BOOZER, MARYLAND-EASTERN SHORE

Scout’s notes: Boozer a classic example of a back who could have played in any era. He was a talented runner and receiver, and his exceptional blocking skills in many ways made him the forerunner of West Coast style backs like Roger Craig; ran for over 5,000 yards in his 10 years with the New York Jets.

MLI: Younger was a true two – way throwback who could play any position well. The first Black star in the NFL’s post – “gentleman’s agreement” era, Younger excelled on defense as a linebacker and on offense at fullback for the Los Angeles Rams after coming in as an undrafted free agent in 1949. A four time Pro Bowl player, he averaged 4.3 yards per carry for his career, scored 35 TDs and intercepted 3 passes.

Tank Younger not only became the first Black player to play in an All – Star game, he became the League’s first Black executive, working with the San Diego Chargers as an assistant general manager.

While his efforts were acknowledged with induction into the College Football HOF (2000) it would be apropos to recognize the trailblazing efforts of this true 60 minute man with induction into Canton and the Pro Football HOF.

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE

DL: RICHARD DENT, TENNESSEE STATE*

DL: GROVER COVINGTON, JOHNSON C. SMITH**

DL: RICH “TOMBSTONE” JACKSON, SOUTHERN*

DL: ERNIE HOLMES, TEXAS SOUTHERN*

Scout’s notes: Dent is a perfect example of what we’re focusing on here: An acknowledged star by his peers, a perennial All – Pro, member of 2 Super Bowl winners and a Super Bowl MVP, Dent has been nominated several times, but never gets over the hump. With a career count of 137.5 QB sacks, Dent was the epitome of a speed rusher; great tensile strength, but speed was Dent’s not-so-secret weapon in getting to the passer. Up for nomination again in 2008, players like Dent, Cris Carter and Andre Reed get moved back as more recent talent (Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders) come up for nomination this year.

No such problem with Grover Covington. This swift defensive end from North Carolina came up to Canada and started with the Montreal Alouettes, but made his mark in Hamilton with the Tiger – Cats. A four – time CFL All – League selection, defensive league MVP and a Schenley Award winner (given to the most outstanding defensive player) in 1988.

Very few players dominated at their position in any league like Covington did, averaging over 15 sacks a season during his reign of terror. Covington is the all – time sack leader in the CFL (157) and was ranked #28 out of the Greatest 50 Players in CFL History by The Sports Network (TSN) in a nationwide poll done in 2006.

This Monroe, NC native was also named to the CIAA Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2000; our American contingent of electors should be so efficient.

L.A. Batchelor : Ernie Holmes was one of the best defensive tackles to ever play the game. Not only did he make life easy for linebackers like Lambert and Ham, he was a monster in the pit and he imploded pockets with power up the middle. I feel Holmes, along with L.C. Greenwood and Donnie Shell are being punished for the Steelers long – time success, and all three of them should have already been in.

MLI: Holmes actually co – holds one of the Steelers’ most cherished records: most consecutive games with a sack (six, tied with Mean Joe Greene and Greg Lloyd) and led the Steelers with 11.5 sacks in 1974. To average over five sacks a season from the defensive tackle is like seconds on hot cornbread – you never turn it down.

While the argument for Holmes may not be as defined as others in terms of longevity (seven seasons) the most important question in my mind – “Did he dominate at his position?” Would be a resounding, “Hell to the Yes!”

MLI : Rich “Tombstone” Jackson, like Holmes played a comparatively short time, but was an impact player throughout his career. Jackson utilized every facet of the game allowed in the bad old days of the 1960s for the Denver Broncos, and used his massive hands to smack offensive linemen upside the head a la Deacon Jones. Jackson was also among the first defensive linemen to utilize a “spin move” against opponents, and had a reputation for being one of the best at defensive end in the AFL prior to merger (member all – AFL / all – time second team.)

Unfortunately, Jackson was a victim of the times as a knee injury cut short his career; the same kind of ligament tear that would put him on injured reserve for perhaps a season were he playing now for the Broncos. Had he been born and played a generation later, there would be no doubt as to his HOF status.

As it is, Jackson’s number No. 87 has been retired and part of their Ring of Honor. Evaluating Jackson’s merits as well as others like him I feel would be better served by a Player’s Committee made up of HOF alums who could offer an even stronger voice to the process; in an effort to eliminate much of the bullshit which gets in the way of fairly assessing a player’s merit.

LINEBACKERS

LB: PETE BARNES, SOUTHERN

LB: TED WASHINGTON, SR, MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE

LB: MIKE HEGMON, TENNESSEE STATE

(Scout’s notes: Washington was about as far as you could go in the draft process, picked in the 17th round, 425th overall in 1972! Played solidly for the Houston Oiler teams that were constantly thwarted by the Steelers throughout the 1970s {sorry, Tee Mack!} Hegmon performed in similar capacity for the Dallas Cowboys, earning a ring in SB XII; while Barnes strung together 11 seasons with four teams.)

SECONDARY:

DB: WILLIE MITCHELL, TENNESSEE STATE

DB: ROYNELL YOUNG, ALCORN STATE

SS: ROOSEVELT TAYLOR, GRAMBLING STATE

FS: GLEN EDWARDS, FLORIDA A&M*

MLI: Glen Edwards did everything well as a defensive back; he was a solid hitter and made up in lack of speed with great vision and football smarts, knowing when to catch the ball and when to knock it down.

A two time SB winner with Pittsburgh in the 1970s, Edwards took advantage of his awesome front seven and grabbed 39 picks as well as ran back punts and kickoffs on special teams in his seven seasons as a pro in Steel City. To some, Edwards wasn’t a spectacular player, but he was spectacular when it mattered most, making key plays in the Steelers back – to – back Super Bowls in 1975 – 76. Years later, Edwards would again be in the right place at the right time for the San Diego Chargers in the 1982 classic 41 – 38 steel cage match against the Miami Dolphins, intercepting a pass which would aid in the winning sudden – death drive.

While he may have to wait longer than others, it’s no reason to punish a great player for being great – Glen Edwards should be a Hall of Famer.

Scout’s notes: Unsung would be a fit adjective for every one of these defenders: Mitchell, whose quiet, technical approach was a direct opposite to Fred “Hammer” Williamson, Emmitt Thomas and Jim Marsalis as a Kansas City Chief; Young played in the Philadelphia Eagles’ first SB appearance as a rookie (1980) and made the Pro Bowl the following season. During his nine years with Philly, Young was a mainstay at left corner; Taylor was a member of the 1963 NFL Champion Chicago Bears and George Allen’s “Over the Hill Gang” in 1972 for Washington throughout a distinguished 12 year career.)

SPECIALS

P- BRECK ACKLEY, SOUTHERN

PK-JAMES MEADE, MORGAN STATE

KR- DAVE MEGGETT, MORGAN STATE

PR- BOBBY HAMMOND, MORGAN STATE

ST- HUBERT GINN, FLORIDA A&M

Scout’s notes: Due in large part to the Whitney Young Urban League Classic, a Black college bowl game inaugurated in the 1960s featuring Grambling and Morgan State, the New York Giants and Jets had scouts keyed on both schools, and both Meggett and Hammond would have integral roles in Giant success through their playing days. Both players were short, elusive and blessed with innate quickness and vision. Meggett later became an everything man for the New England Patriots under Bill Parcells as he was one of the “Tuna Fleet” – favorite players who followed Parcells throughout most of his career. Meggett was a SB winner and a two – time Pro Bowler as a special teamer, while Hammond was a good player on some not – so – good Giant teams in the late 1970s.

Next Time: We are one step closer to the mountaintop, as we ascend another to another plateau – and Team Three!

 

michaelingram@blackathlete.com/basneditor@basnnewsroom.com

 

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