Steve McNair put Alcorn State University on the map as he was a starting quarterback for most of his career there. He came in third in Heisman voting and won the 1994 Walter Payton Award for being the best NCAA Division 1-AA player. The Houston Oilers drafted him third overall in 1995. He became the first Black quarterback to win the AP NFL MVP award. McNair is in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Hall of Fame and the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
Every year, the NFL honors a player who works to bring a positive change in the community with an award in his name. Walter Payton rushed for over 3,500 yards as a running back for the Jackson State Tigers football team. He was named Black College Player of the Year twice. He played for 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears, helping them win Super Bowl XIX. In 1993, Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame three years later.
In 1984, Jerry Rice made 27 touchdown receptions for Mississippi Valley State University. This helped him come in ninth in Heisman voting, Rice also became SWAC Player of the Year that year. That next year, Rice was drafted to the San Francisco 49ers 16th overall. His NFL career consisted of three Super Bowl titles, 13 Pro Bowl selections, two NFL Offensive Players of the Year honors and one Super Bowl MVP award.
Long before he was paired up with Skip Bayless for the sports commentary show “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed,” Shannon Sharpe was a multi-sport athlete at Savannah State University. He competed in the Triple Jump, Discus Throw and the Long Jump in track and field, played basketball and football. After being a seventh-round pick in the 1990 Draft, the tight end made 815 receptions for 10,060 yards and 62 touchdowns in his career. The three-time Super Bowl champion went into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Joe “Tarzan” Kendall
Joe “Tarzan” Kendall was a talented halfback who helped the Kentucky State Thorobreds football team to an undefeated season. In 1934, Kendall helped the Thorobreds to a national championship. The Owensboro, KY native was selected on the Black College All-America three times and was named on the All-Time Black College Football Team. He was inducted in the National Football Hall of Fame in 2007.
Michael Strahan was a defensive end at Texas Southern University. He adapted to the NFL fast after being drafted in 2001 and became a starter in his second season. In 2001, Strahan set the NFL season record of most sacks at 22.5. He helped the New York Giants win Super Bowl XLII. The defensive end was inducted in the Pro Hall of Fame in 2014. Strahan recently donated new equipment to TSU. Along with being a TV show host, Strahan has been an executive producer for Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Sports from 2014 to 2019.
Doug Williams made his mark at Grambling State, being a starter all four years, helping the Tigers to a 36-7 game record during his time there. Grambling State won the SWAC Championship titles with Williams at the helm, making him a first-round pick in the 1978 NFL Draft. With the Washington Redskins, Williams became the first Black quarterback to start in a Super Bowl in Super Bowl XXII. The Redskins won 42-10 against the Denver Broncos and Williams became the first quarterback to win in the Super Bowl. He was inducted to the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
“Bullet” Bob Hayes
Bob Hayes acquired fame during his time at Florida A&M becoming one of the top wide receivers in the nation. Before going to the NFL, Hayes won two gold medals in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, earing the title “World’s Fastest Human.” He led the Dallas Cowboys in receptions twice and helped them win Super Bowl VI. Hayes was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009