In just one week, the Black College Football Hall of Fame is set to announce its 2015 class. The field has been narrowed down to 20 player finalists and five coaches/contributors. The list of finalists is loaded with Hall of Fame and All-Pro players. From that list, we’ve come up with the players we would select, if we had a vote.
Ken Riley, FAMU QB
Riley was a freak-of-nature athlete that helped FAMU win national championships at quarterback. However, because of the climate for black quarterbacks in the NFL in the late 60s, he was switched to defensive back after getting picked up by the Cinncinati Bengals. All he did was pick of 65 passes during the run-heavy 1970s and 80s.
Riley later returned to FAMU as head coach, guiding his team to two MEAC Championships. As a guy who should have been in the Pro Football Hall of FAME a loooooooooong time ago, Riley is a no-brainer.
L.C. Greenwood, UAPB DE
An undervalued member of Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” defense, Greenwood is another player that probably should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well. Sadly, he won’t get to see his selection to either Hall of Fame, but he deserves to go in this year.
Ernie Ladd, Grambling State DL
Ladd aka “Big Cat” was the type of talent HBCUs almost never get these days. As agile as he was big, Ladd was a 6’9, 315 pound defensive lineman that became one of hundreds of Grambling players to make the pros under coach Eddie Robinson. Ladd went on to have a stellar career in the AFL, making the All-Pro squad three times during his career and helping the San Diego Chargers win the AFL Championship in 1963.
Ladd later went on to become one of the first black pro wrestling stars as well.
Emmitt Thomas, Bishop College DB
Bishop College no longer exists, but the legacy of individuals like Thomas will ensure that its name will live on for quite some time. Thomas wasn’t drafted by either the AFL or the NFL, but eventually ended up signing with Kansas City as a free agent. Thomas helped Kansas City win Super Bowl VI by picking off a pass. For his career, the four-time All-Pro selection picked off 58 passes, which still stands as a Chief’s record.
Thomas, who also won Super Bowl rings as an assistant with the Redskins, was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
Richard Dent, Tennessee State DL
One of the last great players coached by the legendary John Merritt, Dent was a black college football legend before he ever set foot on an NFL field. Dent recorded 39 sacks and was part of a TSU squad that won three-straight Black College National Championships during his four years in Nashville.
The three-time All-American was drafted in the eighth round of the 1983 draft and became one of the cornerstones of a fearsome defense that helped the Chicago Bears claim Super Bowl XX. Dent went on to have a spectacular career, finishing with 137.5 sacks. He was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
W.C. Gorden, Jackson State Coach
Already a College Football Hall of Famer, Gorden is a no-brainer. The Tennessee State alum led Jackson State to the 1-AA Playoffs nine times while coaching JSU from 1977 to 1991. During that time, he had just one losing season.