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John "Big John" Merritt

Coach John Merritt had a record of 60-32-4 in his first job as head coach at Jackson State from 1953-1962. However, his greatest success was as the head coach at Tennessee State from 1963 -1983, where he compiled a record of 172-33-7. Five of his teams were unbeaten and five lost only one game. His teams were chosen by the Pittsburgh Courier seven times as the Black College National Champions. Merritt coached 144 players who went into pro football, including Eldridge Dickey, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Joe Gilliam, Jr. and Claude Humphrey. His total record for 31 years was 232-65-11. John Merritt Boulevard in Nashville is named in his honor. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.