Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Pro Football Hall of Famer Bill Nunn’s special HBCU connection.

August 10, 2021 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Sports, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) It will be a special weekend at the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Class of 2020 had to wait until this year to give their enshrinement speeches. That postponement means that this weekend will have the most Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees ever as fifteen men were chosen for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 as part of its Centennial Class in honor of the NFL’s 100th anniversary, five men were chosen for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 as players, and eight men were chosen for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021. Every person selected to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame had a special path and career to earn their enshrinement but there is one inductee that has the strongest link to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, known as HBCUs.

The name Bill Nunn has some fame already due to the late Bill Nunn III, the actor who appeared in like Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” and Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” films. Nunn III’s father is the Bill Nunn being honored as a contributor into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Decades ago, the elder Nunn attended West Virginia State University, a HBCU. Following college, he worked as a sportswriter and managing editor at famed Black newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier. Historically, the NFL, like all sports leagues, have had systemic biases against Black athletes and their abilities to succeed at the professional level due to racist stereotypes about Black people. Nunn opened a lot of NFL eyes by naming the first HBCU All-America All-Star teams in The Pittsburgh Courier newspaper. While there were football players in the NFL from HBCUs prior to Bill Nunn’s work, he was crucial in heightening the NFL’s awareness of the talents at those schools.


The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were among the greatest dynasties in sports history as they won four Super Bowls during that decade. Those Steelers teams had several Hall of Fame players and multiple former HBCU football players including cornerback Mel Blount who attended Southern University, wide receiver John Stallworth who attended Alabama A&M, and defensive back Donnie Shell who attended South Carolina State. Bill Nunn was an excellent scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers who had an eye for talent beyond the HBCUs but also had strong relationships with the coaches and athletic departments at HBCUs. Incredibly, the Steelers drafted 11 future Hall of Famers in Nunn’s tenure, and Shell, who went undrafted, became a 12th Hall of Famer, was another one of the HBCU gems uncovered by Nunn.

One of the model franchises of the NFL is the Pittsburgh Steelers. According to Hall of Fame cornerback Mel Blount, “You cannot write the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers without Bill Nunn. When you look at the Steelers of the 1970s, none of that would have happened without Bill Nunn.” It also speaks to how respected Nunn was that even though he never played or coached football, he was selected as a member of the Inaugural Class of the Black College Football Hall of Fame back in 2010. Sadly, he died in 2014 at the age of 89 so he isn’t able to celebrate his deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame but his mark on the game is left in football history.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines


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