NFL Honors HBCU Series-Part III
By Lenny Moon
The Pro Football Hall of Fame is slated to install the Black College Football Hall of Fame wing within its confines in Canton, OH later this year. It stands to reason that a large chunk of the NFL’s legacy has been contributed by proteges of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
PART III OF OUR SERIES PROFILING HBCU MEMBERS IN THE PFHOF
WIDE RECEIVERS-(3 OF 5)
Bob Hayes (Class of 2009)
One of the greatest athletes from any era was the gentleman once known as the “World’s Fastest Human”. Although Robert Lee “Bullet Bob” Hayes starred in both football and track and field, it was on the cinder that he initially earned world- wide acclaim. While at Florida A&M University (1961-64), not only did the blazing sprinter never lose a race, he re-established the standard for the 100 yd, 100 meter and 200 yd dashes. This exceptional ability qualified him for the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo Japan where the whole world took notice. He won the 100 meters with a world record-tying 10.06 (in borrowed shoes). Hayes most memorable moment occurred when he anchored the USA’s 4X100 meter contingent. His 8.5 seconds, hand timed leg of America’s come-from-behind victory is the fastest in history.
Hayes was a multi-purpose football player as a Rattler. With his incredible speed, head coach Jake Gaither created several means of getting the pigskin into the hands of the fastest man in the world. The Jacksonville, Fl native would line up at halfback, wingback, or wide receiver. Other times he was utilized on special teams as the team’s featured kickoff and punt returner. The Dallas Cowboys came calling during the 1965 NFL Draft, where “Bullet Bob” was a standout for the next 11 seasons. Hayes revolutionized the pro game, whose lightning speed created the term “stretch the field”. The zone defense is another aspect that was an offset by the NFL as a result of Hayes blowing by corners. He hit the scene running, snaring 46 passes for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns his rookie season. He averaged 20 yds per reception for his career, with 71 TDs. The 3-time Pro Bowler was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Charlie Joiner (Class of 1996)
Charles B Joiner Jr was a three-time All-SWAC selection while hauling in passes from future NFL star signal caller James “Shack” Harris at Grambling State University, and coached by legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. The Lake Charles, La native was drafted by the AFL’s Houston Oilers in the 4th round of the 1969 draft. His first eight seasons of pro ball were played in Houston (1969-72) and with the Cincinnati Bengals (1972-75) where he enjoyed some solid campaigns.
But it was with the San Diego Chargers (1976-86) engineered by head coach Don “Air” Coryell and executed by hall of fame signal caller Dan Fouts that Joiner took his game to another level. He accrued over 1,000 yard receiving four times in that system, and finished his 18-yr AFL/NFL career as the league’s leader in receiving yards, receptions and TD’s by a receiver. Joiner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1996.
Jerry Rice (Class of 2006)
Without hesitation, Jerry Lee Rice is the greatest wide receiver in the history of professional football. To think that a sparsely recruited, small town Mississippi based athlete would move on to one of the smallest schools (Mississippi Valley State) within the NCAA-FCS landscape and become one of the most prolific pass catchers in collegiate history. Recruited by innovative head football coach Archie “Gunslinger” Cooley, Rice teamed with quarterback Willie “Satellite” Totten to form the early edition of the spread offense. Their unstoppable attack crystalized in 1984, when Valley led the nation by scoring 628 points in 11 games (57 ppg). That season, Rice snared an NCAA leading 112 receptions for 1845 yards for a whopping 27 TDs. All told, the College Football Hall of Fame wide out finished his illustrious career with 301 catches for 4693 yards and 50 touchdowns.
Drafted with the 16th pick of the 1985 NFL Draft, Rice would considerably raise the bar for greatness on the pro level during his 21 yr career. As of 2017, the former HBCU star authored over 100 NFL records. In 1999, The Sporting News recognized Rice as the second greatest player in the history of the NFL, behind only legendary running back Jim Brown of Cleveland. Among his credentials include 3-Time Super Bowl Champion (XXIII,XXIV and XXIX), Super Bowl MVP (XXIII), 13-Time Pro Bowl and 10-time 1st Team All-Pro among many others. Rice was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006