By: Barry Barnes, Founder/Senior Writer
The Black College Hall of Fame will introduce 11 inductees into its institution Feb. 16 at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. The Atlanta Falcons are the proud host for this historical ceremony, in which nine players (seven of whom are Pro Football Hall of Famers), a head coach and long-time commentator will be ushered into immortality.
Elvin Bethea (defensive end, North Carolina A&T State University, 1964-1967) played in the NFL for the Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans) and became an eight-time Pro Bowler. He became a member of the Hall of Fame in 2003.
Charles Brackins (quarterback, Prairie View A&M University, 1951-1954) played one year in the league for the Green Bay Packers in 1955. He changed his position from being a quarterback to become a defensive back to make another NFL roster and was unable to be successful enough to make a team. Unfortunately, Brackins lose his battle to cancer in 1990.
Joe Gilliam, Jr. (quarterback, Tennessee State University, 1968-1971) was labeled as a quarterback that was never truly given the opportunity to succeed on a high level in the NFL, due to the color of his skin. However, he went on to become a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he was the backup to Hall of Fame signal caller Terry Bradshaw, and was a member of the club from 1972 to 1975. On Christmas Day of 2000, Gilliam passed away due to a heart attack.
Ken Houston (safety, Prairie View A&M University, 1964-1967) was a 12-time Pro Bowler where he played for the Oilers (1967-1972) and the Washington Redskins (1973-1980). He was ushered into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
Charlie Joiner (wide receiver, Grambling State University, 1965-1968) played 18 seasons in the NFL (Oilers; 1969-1972, Cincinnati Bengals; 1972-1975 and the San Diego Chargers; 1976-1986). He retired as the Chargers’ wide receivers coach after the 2012 NFL season. Joiner was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Ed “Too Tall” Jones (defensive lineman, Tennessee State University, 1970-1973) played for 15 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (1974-1989) and is a Super Bowl champion. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Larry Little (offensive lineman, Bethune-Cookman University, 1963-1966) was a six-time All-Pro in the NFL and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He played for the Chargers (1967-1968) and the Miami Dolphins (1969-1980).
Shannon Sharpe (tight end, Savannah State University, 1986-1989) is a three-time Super Bowl champion as he helped the Denver Broncos and the Baltimore Ravens to win their first of two titles (the Ravens won their second title for the 2012 season). Sharpe was humbly inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011, and is a NFL analyst for CBS Sports.
Jackie Slater (offensive lineman, Jackson State University, 1973-1976) spent his entire NFL career with the Rams’ organization (Los Angeles and St. Louis) from 1976 to 1995. He played in seven Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro five times.
John “Big John” Merritt (Head Coach, Jackson State University & Tennessee State University, 1953-1983) was a dominate head coach during his era and coached Jones and Gilliam, along with a host of other NFL players.
Charlie Neal (Long time commentator for Black College Football) has been in the commentating business for over 30 years and now is a member of ESPN.