Steve ‘Air’ McNair is among 11 HBCU greats on the ’19 College Football Hall of Fame ballot

Their careers epitomize greatness going back decades


Quarterback Steve “Air” McNair from Alcorn State is among 10 greats from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on the 2019 ballot for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.

McNair, who went on to star with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, is the all-time passing leader in FCS history with 14,496 yards and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1994.

McNair led the nation in passing twice, including 4,057 yards in 1992 and 5,799 yards in 1994. With McNair, Alcorn never lost a game at Jack Spinks-Marino Casem Stadium.

He is the only four-time winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Offensive Player of the Year award and was the 1994 Walter Payton Award winner. He led the Braves to two SWAC titles and a pair of NCAA playoff appearances.

In all, 76 players and six coaches from the FBS and 100 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks are up for inclusion in the Hall. They will find out on Jan. 7, 2019, the day of the College Football Playoff National Championship, and induction takes place during the 62nd annual National Football Foundation awards dinner on Dec. 10, 2019.

Non-HBCU athletes on the ballot include Syracuse wide receiver Marvin Harrison; Arkansas running back Darren McFadden; running back Rashaan Salaam, who won the 1994 Heisman at Colorado; SMU running back Eric Dickerson; Miami linebacker Ray Lewis; and Notre Dame receiver Raghib Ismail.

Other HBCU athletes and Coaches on the ballot:

Ashley Ambrose, Mississippi Valley State, defensive back: 1991 first-team All-American and first-team All-SWAC selection, SWAC Defensive Back and Return Specialist of the Year in 1991, led nation in punt returns his senior season.

Vincent Brown, Mississippi Valley State, linebacker: 1987 first-team All-American, led NCAA in tackles in 1986 and 1987, set NCAA All-Divisions record with 570 career tackles, two-time All-SWAC selection who led MVSU in tackles his last three seasons.

Parnell Dickinson, Mississippi Valley State, quarterback: 1975 first-team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Player of the Year, four-time All-SWAC selection and conference Player of the Year as a senior, finished career as SWAC’s all-time leader in total offense (7,442 yards).

William Dillon, Virginia Union, free safety: Three-time first-team All-America selection (1980-82), had 16 interceptions in 1983, ‘83 Black College Player of the Year, two-time first-team All-Conference selection and Player of the Year (1981-82).

Bob Gaddis, Mississippi Valley State, wide receiver: 1974 first-team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Receiver of the Year, ‘70 NAIA Freshman of the Year and twice led the NAIA in yards per catch (1971-72), three-time All-SWAC selection and led conference in yards per catch all four years.

Tyrone Poole, Fort Valley State (Ga.), defensive back: First-team All-America selection in 1994, two-time Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Defensive Player of the Year (1993-94) who led FVSU to two conference titles, had 44 pass breakups and 17 interceptions, returning four for TDs.

Coaching candidates:

Rudy Hubbard, Florida A&M (1974-85): Coached back-to-back national championships in 1977 and ’78, including the inaugural NCAA Division I-AA national title in 1978, led FAMU to back-to-back SIAC championships.

Eddie Hurt, Virginia Lynchburg (1925-28), Morgan State (1930-59): Led Morgan State to six Black College National Championship and 14 CIAA titles, 11 undefeated seasons, including the 1943 team that did not allow a score from a single opponent, led Bears to 54-game streak without a loss from 1932-39.

Gideon Smith, Hampton (1921-40): Led Pirates to 1922 Black College National Championship, coached four CIAA title teams and had two unbeaten seasons in career, longest-tenured coach in Hampton history, boasting the second-most wins all-time at the school.

Joe Taylor, Howard (1983), Virginia Union (1984-91), Hampton (1992-2007), Florida A&M (2008-12): Winningest coach in Hampton history, led Pirates to four Black College National Championships, led teams to 10 conference titles and 10 playoff appearances throughout career, four-time MEAC Coach of the Year.

John X. Miller is senior editor for news and commentary for The Undefeated. He’s a father, jazz aficionado and diehard UNC basketball fan.

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