Changing the Landscape

Changing the Landscape​

By Edd J. Hayes

Brief History of Former Black College Stars who were snubbed by PWIs

I attended my first National Basketball Association Media Day in the 1984 and as a “rookie” sports writer, I was awed by the big time press pundits in attendance. I took a seat near the rear of the room and soaked in the atmosphere.
It was one of the first highlights of my young fledgling career.
While everyone was commenting on the upcoming season, the top newcomers and other business, I was anxious to ask the question, “Why weren’t Black college players being talked about in the same breath as everyone else?”

There was Larry Smith, Alcorn State, (taken in the 2nd round, no. 224, Golden State Warriors) and the CIAA Player of the Year Rick Mahorn (Hampton, 2nd round, no. 35, Washington Bullets) who went on to have better careers than 19 of the first and second round picks taken before them. Both player won championship rings in their careers.
I didn’t ask, but I did my homework. There was a lack of interest in scouting these programs because the rhetoric was – there was not a dearth of talent warranting the expense of covering them. This might not be the right vernacular but the point is, the talent drain after integration nearly crippled many Historically Black Colleges and Universities programs.
Even though the 1950-60s produced Hall of Famers like Earl Lloyd, West Virginia State; Dick Barnett, Tennessee State; Willis Reed, Grambling State and Earl Monroe, Winston-Salem State, there was evidence that many other players who broke the glass ceiling were major contributors and championship caliber performers but were not “draft worthy.”  But, there  were many more free agents who had to climb the ladder of professional respectability.

…Which brings us to football.

Four of the greatest players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame are among the Black college elite who raised the performance bar alongside Jim Brown (Syracuse), Bo Jackson (Auburn) and Ernie Davis (Syracuse) and others.

Whether running back, wide receiver or defensive stalwart, at one time in their pro career, they led in the most important categories at their position. One thing they all shared in common: they were certainly top college prospects worthy of a big time scholarship at a predominately white institution.

Let’s take a look at this select group:

Walter Payton, Jackson State University (1971-75) (SWAC)  
One of Mississippi’s best high school running backs, he received no invitations from Southeastern Conference (SEC) schools like Ole Miss, Alabama or Auburn. So, Payton attended Jackson State and played alongside future pro players: Jerome BarkumRobert Brazile, and Jackie Slater (another Hall of Fame member). Payton set college football records in rushing – more than 3,500 yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry and broke the NCAA rushing scoring record with 65 touchdowns.
He made the All-American Team First Team in 1973 and was Black College Player of the Year in 1974. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Communications in 1975.
He was the first round pick (no. 4) by the Chicago Bears and became one of the most prolific running backs in the history of the National Football League. Payton was a nine-time Pro Bowler and once held the league’s record for most career rushing yards, most touchdowns, most carries, most yards from scrimmage, and all-purpose yards.
He threw eight career touchdown passes (an NFL record for non-quarterbacks) No. 2 (Frank Gifford, NY Giants); was a 2-time NFL Most Valuable Player (1977, 1985) and Bert Bell Award (1985); NFC Player of the Year (1985), NFL Offensive Player of the Year (1977), Super Bowl champion (XX), Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1993, NFL 1970s All-Decade Team, NFL 1980s All-Decade TeamNFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. The Walter Payton Award named in his honor.

Bob Hayes, Florida A&M University (1961-65) (SIAC)
A record setting dual threat in two sports, Hayes was a two-sport stand-out in college in both track and football at Florida A&M University. Though a highly recruited athlete in the state of Florida, he accepted a football scholarship from Florida A&M University to play for legendary head coach Alonza “Jake” Gaither. He ended up excelling in track & field and never lost a race in the 100 yard or 100 meter competitions, but mainstream schools of the area still did not invite him to their sanctioned meets.
Considered the world’s fastest man after setting multiple world records in the 60-yard, 100-yard, 220-yard, and Olympic 100-meter dashes, he  is the only athlete to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl ring

In 1963, he broke the 100-yard dash record with a time of 9.1, a mark that would stand for eleven years and set the world best for 200 meters (20.5 seconds). He was selected to the US Olympic Team in the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and set the world record in the 100M and the 4X100M Relay team to a world record 39.0 secs.
College honors: 3-time AAU 100 yard dash champion, 1962–1964
NCAA champion, 200 meter dash, 1964; Florida A&M University Sports Hall of Fame, inaugural class, 1976; Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, 1996, Black College Football Hall of Fame, 2011

NFL Career

Although Hayes was an outstanding wide receiver on FAMU’s vaunted offenses on the ‘60s, he was not a high draft choice – taken in the seventh round (88th pick) of the NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys and the 105 Pick (14th Round) in the AFL Draft. Hayes went on to have a spectacular career and is credited with altering the way defensive secondaries played the game with his speed and athletic ability.
NFL Career Highlights: 3-time Pro Bowl (19651967); 2-time First-team All-Pro (19661968); Second-team All-Pro (1967); 2-time NFL receiving touchdowns leader (1965, 1966); Super Bowl champion (VI).
Receptions: 371, 7417 Yards, 71 Tds. Inducted into the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame

Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State University (1981-84) (SWAC) 
Rice shattered just about every NCAA receiving records including a record-setting 1983 season with 102 receptions and 1,450receiving yards. 

College honors:
First Team Division I-AA All-America; single-game NCAA record with 24 passes (vs. Southern University); broke his own Division I-AA records for receptions (112) and receiving yards (1,845),27 touchdown receptions in 1984; Named to every All-American team; finished ninth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1984. Was MVP in the Blue Gray Classic All-Star Game; inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, 2006. 

NFL Career statistics
Considered the greatest wide receiver in NFL history
Played 20 seasons in the National Football League
All-time leader in most major statistical categories for wide receivers:
Holds over 100 NFL records, the most of any player; 1,549 receptions, career, 22,895 receiving yards, career, 197 receiving touchdowns, career, 23,546 all-purpose yards, careerNFL Most Valuable Player; 2-time NFL Offensive Player of the YearNFC Player of the YearBert Bell Award, 2-time NFC Offensive Player of the YearNFC Rookie of the Year (1985); 6-time NFL receiving yards leader, 6-time NFL receiving touchdowns leaderNFL 75th Anniversary All-Time TeamNFL 1980s-90s All-Decade Team, 13 Pro Bowls, 12-time All-Pro (20 NFL seasons); Three-time Super Bowl championThe Top 100 NFL’s Greatest Players; College Football Hall of Fame, Pro Football Hall of Fame

Michael Strahan Texas Southern University (1990-93) (SWAC) 
Michael Strahan played one season of football and was relatively unknown in scouting circles. He accepted a scholarship offer to play at Texas Southern University where he became one of the most dominant defensive ends in college football. It earned him All-America First Team by: The Poor Man’s Guide to the NFL Draft, The Sheridan Network, Edd Hayes Black College Sports Report and
Associated Press. He was a 2nd Round/ 40th pick in the 1993 NFL Draft by the New York Giants and had a spectacular career as one of the leading sackers of all-time.

Career NFL statistics: 
854 Tackles, 4 Interceptions, 24 Forced fumbles…NFL record 22.5 sacks in a season. Set a career record for the most sacks with 141.5.

NFL honors: 
7-time Pro Bowl ; 4-time First-team All-Pro, 2-time Second-team All-Pro, 2-time NFL sacks leader, 2-time NFC Defensive Player of the YearNFL Defensive Player of the YearNFL 2000s All-Decade TeamNew York Giants Ring of HonorSuper Bowl champion (XLII) 2007

Then, there’s not enough room here to tell you about the super men and women who tore up the tracks in the AAU, NCAA and Olympics…that’s another story.
To be continued.

A PAL Story

A PAL Story

“ I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no black college.”

By Edd J. Hayes

Back in the ‘80s, I was a “gym rat” and spent a lot of time with my friends at the Police Athletic League gym on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, one of the many havens for inner city youths like so many others in cities and towns around the country.
Centers like these were the one of the first places that a youngster could go to began working on a game and a dream. It was the first stage of development for many of them who had visions of escaping the reality surrounding them. And, it was the first taste of organized sports and learning some of the life skills they that would help them overcome the proverbial “streets”.
The Webster Avenue Police Athletic League Center was ran by an ex- All-CIAA legendary power forward, Oscar Smith (Elizabeth City State). The first rule they came to respect was- once you crossed the threshold of the wide doors- you took off your cap! No exception, no excuses.
That was one of the little things that resonated in their maturation. Most of the volunteers were young black men, who had come up through the system, went off to college and returned to “give something back.” And, for both parties, it was a love affair that sometimes lasted a lifetime.
On a typical hot summer day, I was hanging at the PAL and I glimpsed a young man seated behind me and eventually engaged him in small talk. He seemed a little out of sorts and after a while, he revealed he had returned home after a failed stint in college. I recalled he was a former high school All-American who had been highly recruited and accepted a basketball scholarship to play a Big Ten program in the Midwest. 
He confessed that it was a cultural shock to him…an inner city kid who found it hard to adjust to life in the middle of the Corn Belt. He felt he had few options and decided to come back home to “regroup.” 

“Centers like these were one of the first places that a youngster could go to began working on their game and a dream”

Here was a depressed young man, which happened to a lot of youngsters who didn’t have strong mentoring support and a moral compass.
I felt empathy and tried in a feeble way to offer some encouragement. I must have burbled something like, “Have you considered playing for a Black college?”
He looked at me with a querying look and mumbled, “ I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no black college.”
I had no answer then and that moment still haunts me. 
Yet, I knew about the Black college experience because I recall how it felt to walk on a campus where there were no barriers to overcome and you felt nurtured and supported by teachers, fellow students and teammates. 
There was an air of belonging I experienced nowhere else (and I attended a couple of predominately white institutions).
I recall that moment quite often when I’m face to face with a teenager who is full of confidence and swagger and faith in his ability to make all the right moves – on and off the fields, yet fails to fulfill his potential.
If I could see that young man now, I would look him in the eye and say, “You can’t ball all (of) your life. You need to learn all you can…about everything you can. Be the best you can…you can still reach your dream.”
While we believe in diversity and support the right of a student and/or athlete to choose to study and perform at a school of their choice, we also recognize the relevance of tradition and pride in supporting Historically Black College and Universities.
While we believe in diversity and support the right of a student and/or athlete to choose to study and perform at a school of their choice, we also recognize the relevance of tradition and pride in supporting black colleges.
A lot of HBCUs are feeling the pinch in enrollment even though they may offer scholarships and opportunities. At one time, these hallowed halls of learning offered the greatest  and only opportunity for African Americans to get a quality education and play sports at an optimum level. Many of the past and present leaders in nearly every aspect of society were products of an Black college.

Finally, if another student player ever replies, “I don’t know ANY.”
Boy, do I have an answer now…

A Saga That Has No Ending

A Saga That Has No Ending

In this age of instant social media fame, nothing or no one escapes the spotlight.
A while back, there was a YouTube clip of the nine-year old girl that has already caught the eye of the major college basketball powers.
How easy it is to be caught up in the hype about the next great sports phenom! Since I raised a couple of promising athletes, I can tell you that little girl will make two or three career changes by the time she gets to puberty. That’s if she’s allowed.
This is not a unique since this seems to occur just about every year since sports popularity exploded across the universe. Every generation has their version of the proverbial “greatest of all-time” tag being pinned on some youth who probably hadn’t been on their first date yet.
Still, this anomaly has morphed into the very fabric that grooms this nation’s attitude and moral values.

They had their own legends
When this country righted itself after a grueling war that emancipated former slaves, they went on to create their own existence and eventually demanded their rightful place in society. It was the hunger for an education that propelled their desire to gain respect and the equanimity they sought.
That pursuit defined the character and determination that helped shape and mold the society we share today. Those values also fueled the competitive spirit in all of us.
Young black student “athletes” emerged on the American landscape and became supreme in their quest to prove they could compete.  Many became dominant figures in education, sports, entertainment, medicine…well, you get the picture.
There was a jubilant pride in accomplishing something which gave all of us something to hope for…honor, achievement and of course, wealth.
Playing sports became a new stream of revenue, even though very few African Americans made a decent living at it.

Until Their Eyes Were Open
I received an email from a friend about a new book entitled, “Basketball Slave: The Andy Johnson Harlem Globetrotter/NBA Story” written by his son Mark Johnson. It depicts a sobering tale of what happened during the glory days of the Globetrotters, and the saga of a spiraling super talented but misguided youth who forsook an education to pursue his dream of fame and fortune.
Sound familiar? Sixty years ago, when this episode occurred, you could roll out a ball onto any playground and name any number of young men who suffered the same fate.
I came across another article I had saved from the 1980’s about Curtis Jones, a Detroit playground legend who sued his former high school basketball coach and several college figures for 15 million dollars, claiming he was ‘pushed’ through the system and allowed to ‘forfeit’ an education because he was such a great basketball talent.
I recalled Lloyd Daniels, one of the most heralded New York City high school basketball legends, and how he was ‘trafficked’ from one high school to another because of his coveted dominant skills on the court. Somehow, he landed at University of Nevada – Las Vegas even though he hardly had the grades to get out of high school. He eventually slipped into oblivion after several controversial incidents and played for five years in the NBA with six different teams.

And then there was the “Goat”…The classic story.
Earl Manigault’s legacy still hangs over the now defunct Rucker Playground where he held court every summer. Despite the efforts of Holcombe Rucker to mentor him and help him escape the dark cloak of the mean streets of Harlem, he couldn’t embrace the slow Southern culture and rigid commitment to play college ball at Johnson C. Smith. Eventually, he fell to the lure of the drug culture and never reached the first rung of success that was within reach.
And for the lack of space, I cannot name the long litany of other failed careers that has pretty much gone unnoticed and not shared with youths of the following generations.
On the other hand, it has become fashionable for the media and fans to prophesy on which “can’t miss” prospect will be the next lottery pick or are just waiting to jump to the pros (if they’re lucky enough).,
Periodically, social consciousness kicks in and statistical reports pop up revealing the debilitating graduation rates of college athletes, but that sound is muffled long enough for us to enjoy the exploits of these super talented athletes who are deprived (and or deprived themselves) – of getting a decent education. It is a greater disservice when they are not encouraged to make the most of their educational opportunities.
Now I know there is always going to be a strong argument by those who buy into “get the money while you can” theory and certainly, it is the American way but many who choose to go that route eventually fall to have completeness in the final analysis of their lives. The old folks used to say, “A fool and his money…” you know the rest.
And you and I know…to whom much is given…much more is expected.

That’s just my two cents…what do you think?