Jul. 15, 2015
Athletes Choosing Colleges Should Not Forget HBCUs
By Keisha J Kelley, For The African-American Athlete
For so long I have watched athletes rally from pee wee football to the halls of college working on their craft. So many kids grow up with aspirations of playing sports at prestigious universities, along with hopes of one day going on to pursue a career in professional sports. Day in and day out, athletes work towards what they hope will one day be a career they excel in, and make their families proud.
My only question is when it comes to choosing a university to pursue sports dreams, why do athletes feel the only way to do that is at powerhouse programs, or big name programs?
I have lived by the motto for a long time if scouts want you, they will find you.
I have seen big names like Indianapolis Colts’ Pro-Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis come out of Alabama A&M University. Alabama A&M is also the home of Pro Football Hall of Famer John Stallworth, a four time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The list doesn't stop there when we talk about Hall of Fame athletes who played sports at Historical Black Colleges and Universities.
One simply can't make mention of college football without speaking of the legendary Eddie Robinson, who built the Grambling Tiger football program into a success.
Coach Rob of Grambling, the winner of 408 games, second all-time, is arguably the greatest college football coach ever. That’s more than legends like Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne or Woody Hayes.
Now, Coach Rob’s great grandson, Quentin Burrell, has returned to Grambling as an assistant to head coach Broderick Fobbs.
Of course, Coach Rob’ sparkling legacy is part of a story a lot of people don’t like to mention. Well, you may not want to talk about it, but the history doesn't disappear. It did happen.
But let’s go on. How about Jackson State’s Walter ‘Sweetness’? The Pro Football Hall of Famer is one of the greatest players, ever.
The athletic excellence comes from a myriad of sports. Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, and tennis great Althea Gibson, hailed from FAMU.
Basketball Hall of Famer Willis Reed, NFL Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner and Buck Buchanan, and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams are just a few greats from Grambling.
Pro Football Hall of Famers Mel Blount, Aeneas Williams, and NBA great Avery Johnson, are part of the mighty Southern University athletic tradition.
Tennessee State’s Ed "Too Tall" Jones was the No. 1 pick in the 1974 NFL draft, and Wilma Rudolph led the TSU Tigerbelles to glory in track and field.
Alcorn’s Steve McNair led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl.
Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest football player ever, hailed from Mississippi Valley. Michael Strahan from Texas Southern, baseball’s Lou Brock of starred at Southern, NBA Hall of Famer Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe came out of Winston Salem.
Former Cleveland Browns star Leroy Kelly of Morgan State, and New York Giants star Harry Carson, played at South Carolina State. Olympian Alice Coachman is out of Tuskegee.
Really, the list could go on and on.
So tell me again why are athletes overlooking HBCU's? Is it facilities, exposure, and being at a big time program?
When it comes to facilities, Alabama Crimson Tide, has one of the finest facilities of its kind in the nation, and it underwent a renovation in the summer of 2009. The Hank Crisp Indoor Facility removed the tennis practice facility to make the building a complete open space to be utilized for practice by baseball, football, soccer, and softball, when inclement or extreme temperatures prevent those teams from practicing outdoors.
With a 130+ yard field, this makes it the largest collegiate indoor practice facility in the nation under one roof.
It is nice, for sure.
Now, I can't deny the fact that many kids are swooned by bigger programs because of what scouts have told them, what recruits have sold them, and what coaches have shared with them.
The possibility of playing time and exposure at top notch programs like Alabama, Auburn or LSU are hard to resist. Who wouldn’t want to play under a winning coach like Nick Saban at Alabama?
HBCUs don’t have million dollar facilities. And sure you will practice in the heat, or cold, which is how you develop mental toughness.
However, one thing I can tell you for sure is that your opportunity to play will happen. In HBCU programs, you will get your shot on the field, break records like Southern University’s Lenard Tillery, who broke the SWACs rushing record, and still got a shot at a pro career.
Understand, everyone is not going to get drafted. Not everyone will make, it, either.
As long as you put in the work, dedication, drive, and sacrifice, the rest will come. All you need is one shot.
Just remember if they want you, they will find you, the choice simply is yours.
(Keisha J Kelley is a Southern University Grad, host of Black College Experience & PQSportsRadio. Fan of the Southern Jaguars and New Orleans Saints. You can find her on Heels2Turf or BlackCollegeExp on Twitter, Heels2Turf on Instagram and Keisha Kelley on FB)