Junious “Buck” Buchanan, as a defensive end for Grambling State University from 1959 to 1963, was an NAIA All-American and a three-time Black College All-America. Buchanan could bat down passes with either hand, play the run and rush the passer. The first of the prototypical defensive lineman, combing size, speed, and strength, he was the first black college player taken as the No. 1 overall pick in an NFL Draft, when the Kansas City Chiefs selected him in 1963. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Coach Alonzo “Jake” Gaither spent 24 years at Florida A&M University, from 1945 to 1969, amassing an astonishing record of 203-36-4. His teams won 18 Conference Championships and were Black College National Champions six times. In a 10-year streak, from 1953 to 1962, his teams went 87-7-1. His “split line T” offense was adopted by several major college programs, and he retired in 1969 with a .844 winning percentage, the best ever among all NCAA coaches. In 1975 he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Willie “Gallopin’ Gal” Galimore, as a running back at Florida A&M University from 1953 to 1956, was all-Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference choice four times and was named a Black College All-America by the Pittsburgh Courier three times. The Rattlers won four conference championships while Galimore was at FAMU and one Black College National Championship. He played for the Chicago Bears from 1957 to 1963, before passing away tragically at the age of 29 in an auto accident in Rensselaer, Indiana, on July 27, 1964. As FAMU’s all-time leading rusher, Galimore averaged 94 yards per game and was the Rattler’s first 1,000-yard runner (1,203 yards in 1954).
David “Deacon” Jones played defensive end for South Carolina State University and Mississippi Valley State University from 1958 to 1960. Blessed with speed, agility, and quickness, the “Deacon” became one of the finest pass rushers in the business. Yet had it not been for the chance observation of two Rams scouts viewing films of an opponent, he might never have had a chance to play pro football. When the scouts noted that the 6-4, 272-pound tackle was outrunning the backs they were scouting, they recommended Jones as a sleeper pick. He went on to unanimous all-league honors six straight years from 1965 through 1970 and was selected to eight Pro Bowls. Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
Willie “Honey Bear” Lanier played Linebacker and Offensive Guard at Morgan State University from 1963 to 1967. He earned first team All-America honors his junior year and led the Bears to bowl games in 1965 and 1966, winning both and holding opponents to 0 total yards offense in the 1965 game. His teams won three conference championships and at one point had a 32-game winning streak. Lanier went on to play in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, winning a Super Bowl and five times being named as an All-Pro Middle Linebacker. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Legendary journalist and NFL Scout Bill Nunn entered the newspaper business as a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Courier, where he later rose to sports editor and managing editor. After elevating the Courier’s Black College All-American team to new heights, Nunn joined the Pittsburgh Steelers' scouting staff part time in 1967 and then full time in 1969. A true innovator, he constructed a bridge between the Steelers and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Five Super Bowl Rings later, Nunn is among the most legendary NFL scouts of all time.
Walter “Sweetness” Payton, as a Running Back at Jackson State University from 1971 to 1974. made every All-American team picked for college division or division 1-AA teams. In both years Payton was voted Black College Player of the Year. A tough back, who ran harder than his size (5’10, 200), Payton was a complete football player -- one who could run the ball, block, tackle, pass, catch passes, and kick. It was in college that Payton picked up his nickname "Sweetness" because of the smooth way he ran. He moved on to a legendary career with the Chicago Bears, which included a Super Bowl Ring in 1985, nine Pro Bowls and two NFL Player of the Year Awards. Payton was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Jerry Rice, a wide receiver for Mississippi Valley State University from 1981 to 1984, is widely regarded as one of the greatest receivers in history on any level. He was named first-team Division I-AA All-America and finished ninth in the 1984 Heisman Trophy voting. His 27 touchdown receptions that season set the NCAA mark for all divisions. Rice was named the 1984 SWAC Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year for the State of Mississippi. In addition to being named first-team Division I-AA All-American, the NEA and Football Writers’ Association of America both named Rice to their first-team Division I-A All-America squads. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers with the 16th overall selection in the 1985 NFL Draft and became arguably the greatest player in NFL history. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and is a 2010 Nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Coach Eddie G. Robinson spent 56 years at Grambling State University, from 1941-1997. He put together an incredible overall record of 408-165-15 and sent more than 80 players to the NFL and AFL. Robinson led the Tigers to a streak of 27 consecutive winning seasons from 1960 to 1986, as well as 17 SWAC Championships and nine Black College National Championships, more than any other HBCU. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997 and has received more awards than any other coach in history.
Ben “Big Ben” Stevenson spent his first years at Tuskegee University as a prep-schooler, which at the time allowed him to play eight seasons in all for the Golden Tigers, from 1923 to 1930. During that span, the team amazingly suffered only two defeats. Stevenson combined speed (9.8 100-yard dash), strength and durability. Scoring on a combination of long runs and drop kicks, he also played defensive back, earning a reputation as one of the top pass thieves in the conference. Stevenson was named to seven consecutive Black College All-America teams, numerous Negro all-time All-America teams and was voted as the game's greatest all-around player.
Paul "Tank" Younger had a record-setting career at running back and linebacker at Grambling State University from 1945 to 1948. He was named to the 1948 Pittsburgh Courier All-America team and was the Tigers’ leader on offense and defense. Younger totaled 60 touchdowns during his career at Grambling, which at the time was a collegiate record. After his senior season, he was named black college football's Player of the Year. Younger went on to a very successful NFL career with the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning Pro Bowl status five times. He became the first black player to play in an NFL All-Star Game, and after his playing days, went on to become the league's first black assistant general manager in 1975.