Talk of Fame visits the HOF, recalls HBCU's football heyday

Talk of Fame network went back to Canton for Hall of Fame induction weekend. While there, they visited the new HBCU exhibit and then spoke with two of the greatest players to come into the NFL from HBCU schools.

Our Hall-of-Fame hosts, Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge, were in Canton for the annual Hall- of-Fame induction, where inductee Jerry Jones gave Rick a shout-out that opens our show with a Cowboy bang. But there’s a lot more to this edition than that.

Our guys recap Hall-of-Fame weekend from the speeches to the class itself to a vivid description of Jones’ multi-million dollar post-induction party that included a 90-minute live performance by Justin Timberlake and a building filled with anyone who was anyone in pro football.

The crowd included our guys.

On display at the Hall is a portion of what is to become the Black College Football Hall of Fame, which has been moved from Atlanta to Canton. Two of the greatest players in HBCU history, James Harris and Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Art Shell, tell our audience what life was like before southern college and universities were integrated.

Nearly 10 per cent of the 310 men inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame got their start at HBCU schools. One was Harris, the first African-American quarterback to start in the NFL when he became the Buffalo Bills' starter as a rookie. Harris opened the door for Doug Williams, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Steve McNair, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and many others. He was the first and he felt that weight.

“I understood there were no black quarterbacks, no black governors, no black CEOs,’’ Harris recalled on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “I didn’t think I had much of a chance. Just before I was going (off) to play, (Grambling) coach (Eddie) Robinson said, ‘If you go to pro ball, don’t come back and say you didn’t make it because you were black. And don’t go up there expecting things to be fair.’ With that in mind, when I got there I was nervous, but I wasn’t scared.’’

Harris became the first black quarterback selected to the Pro Bowl and later went on to a successful career with the Los Angeles Rams, where he became the first African-American quarterback to start and win a playoff game. After retirement, he had a long and successful career in personnel and scouting with several NFL teams.

He never had to go back to face Coach Robinson and explain why he didn’t make it.

Among the HBCU items on display last week was the helmet Shell wore for the Oakland Raiders when he shut out Vikings’ defensive end Jim Marshall (no tackles, no assists) in Oakland’s Super Bowl XI victory over Minnesota in 1976. It is chipped and has a crack on the crown from the violence of that day.

Art was an All-American at Maryland-Eastern Shore before he was drafted by the Raiders in 1968, but his story could have been different. He could have ended up at Grambling. Eddie Robinson gave him a bus ticket to come down to Louisiana to play for his legendary program. Art explains to the Talk of Fame Network audience why he never used it and also discusses perhaps the greatest African-American quarterback who never was, Eldridge Dickey.

Dickey was drafted on the first round by Oakland in 1968, and Harris believes he should have become a star. Shell explains why he wasn’t, but tells the Talk of FameNetwork that ‘’if he was playing today he would be.’’

Rick Gosselin spreads some knowledge with his Dr. Data segment and states the case for George Kunz, an eight-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman with the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Colts whom Rick believes is Hall-of-Fame worthy. But it’s not just Rick who makes the case, Kunz himself came by to visit and suggested when it comes to judging offensive linemen for the Hall, “You’ve got to speak with collateral sources. Guys you played with and against.’’

There’s that and more, including a visit with New York Daily News football columnist Gary Myers to talk about his new book, "My First Coach," where NFL quarterbacks recall inspiring stories about their fathers.

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