Before Super Bowl LI officially kicked off Sunday night, the NFL honored the game’s best players to have come from a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in a special presentation that saw two famous Redskins players celebrated.
Most notable was Washington football legend Doug Williams, the Grambling State product and Super Bowl XXII MVP, now working in the team’s front office, who began the proceedings with some video narration and then walked out from behind the stage.
“There was a time when we judged football players by the color of their skin, before the content of their character,” he said above a short video package that introduced the significance of his and his peers’ achievements. “As my coach Eddie Robinson said, ‘This is America, we can be anything we want to be.’”
Indeed, Williams lived up to his coach’s words, notching several firsts during the Redskins’ second Super Bowl run and victory. He became the first African-American quarterback to start in an NFL league championship game, first to win the Super Bowl and first to throw for four passing touchdowns in a single quarter.
At Grambling State, Williams won three Southwestern Conference Championships and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. He would also go on to coach there during two stints, the most recent of which finished in 2013.
In 2009, Williams and James Harris founded the Black College Football Hall Of Fame, which provides “a meaningful platform to share the history and stories of the greatest HBCU football players, coaches, and contributors.”
Just recently it announced a partnership with the Pro Football Hall Of Fame, providing a permanent home for the BCFHOF in the new Hall of Fame Village.
Part of the 70 Greatest Redskins, former safety and Pro Football Hall Of Famer Ken Houston was also on hand during the honorary pregame presentation.
Houston played with the Houston Oilers for six seasons before playing eight years in Washington. He totaled 49 career interceptions and recorded 12 touchdowns, going to seven consecutive Pro Bowls during his time in the Burgundy and Gold.
Most of the players that were called to walk out and onto the field did so in gold, Hall of Fame jackets, a distinction that Houston, but not Williams, could claim.
After Joe Jacoby missed out on the Hall of Fame this weekend, Sunday’s collection of HBCU members – the majority of which dressed in those fine jackets – made Williams’ exclusion from that distinguished group more than confusing.
When will he get his turn?