Doug Williams leads charge for Black College Football Hall of Fame’s future – USA TODAY
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Doug Williams is still making history, so to speak.
Decades since earning Super Bowl MVP honors as the first African-American quarterback to start in the NFL’s signature title game, Williams is playing a key role in a new partnership that will establish a permanent home for the Black College Football Hall of Fame on the grounds of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
It’s fitting. Williams and James Harris, a fellow Grambling alum with a distinct historical footprint of his own, founded the Black College Football Hall in 2009. In an alliance announced last week, they achieved a major goal in finding a facility to showcase honorees who made their mark at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).
“This is so important,” Williams told USA TODAY Sports. “If our history isn’t preserved, it won’t be there. James and I have talked about that, and how so many guys have been unrecognized.”
The Hall-within-a-Hall will be another component of a significant expansion and revitalization of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in the midst of a $500 million development that includes a refurbished Tom Benson Stadium and ambitious Hall of Fame Village to be anchored by a hotel and conference center.
The Black College Hall is expected to be unveiled by 2019. Beyond that, the partnership will include educational programs, traveling exhibits, internships for graduates from HBCU institutions and ultimately a showcase Hall of Fame game for black college teams.
“With the makeover of the Hall (in Canton),it became a no-brainer to add our history to that,” said Williams, now a personnel executive for Washington, the franchise he led to Super Bowl XXII glory.
Harris, by the way, was the first African-American quarterback enlisted as a full-time starter in pro football (1969, Buffalo Bills) and first to earn a Pro Bowl nod (1975, Los Angeles Rams).
Williams said that it once seemed destined that the Black College Football Hall would be permanently established in Atlanta, where the organization has held its annual induction dinner and golf tournament. There was also sentiment to house the Hall on the campus of an HBCU institution, with consideration given to Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C.
Yet aligning with the Hall in Canton adds value, Williams said, with the projected exposure for the Black College Football Hall increasing revenue-producing opportunities. The Pro Football Hall of Fame (with 29 of its 303 inductees having HBCU roots) aims to have 300,000 visitors this year.
“You couldn’t find a better place,” Williams said. “When you look at it realistically, it’s about the traffic. You could end up with it on a black college campus, but just being in Canton you will capture so many more football fans. That’s what museums and Hall of Fames are all about: Traffic.”
Follow Jarrett Bell on Twitter @JarrettBell.