Culture

How the Black College Football HOF ended up in the Pro Football HOF

Hall of Fame

Pro Football Hall of Fame Executive Director talks about how the two halls connected.

The Black College Football Hall of Fame, which gives out the Deacon Jones Trophy annually,  is set to relocate from Atlanta to Canton, OH next year as part of a new $500 million complex at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

That match is one a long-time coming, according to Pro Football Hall executive diretor Joe Horrigan.

“Black college football and professional football both kicked off in 1892, but it wasn’t really until the 1960s that black athletes from Historically Black colleges, were invited into professional football,” Horrigan told Zennie Abraham. “We celebrate when integration happened of the teams. We celebrate when segregation was broken with what we call the Forgotten Four of Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis. We celebrate it, but we forget to tell the story of why it existed and the fact that it did exist.”

The idea for the hall was started by former Grambling legends and NFL quarterbacks James “Shack” Harris and Doug Williams. When Harris and Williams were looking for a permanent home, Horrigan says the Hall of Fame made it clear they would be able to offer something other locations couldn’t: A consistent audience and sustainability.
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“You can go to some small town, some small community that may have ties to the school, or whatever, but is that sustainable?” Horrigan said. “We wanted to give them a permanent home where not only were we gonna tell the story to audiences that might not ever otherwise learn about it, but in a sustainable environment.”

Related:  Class of 2018 Black College Football HOF Inducted 

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