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Inside Hotlanta and The SIAC
May 22, 2007

by Hal Lamar
Onnidan Online Columnist

Jake Gaither winner 2nd round NFL draftee, Heisman Winner 5th

The 2007 NFL draft did a lot to bolster the image and stature of the Alonzo S “Jake” Gaither award. This trophy, handed to the best football player from the nation’s historically black football playing colleges and universities of the USA as determined by the august members of Atlanta’s 100% Wrong Club, has come to be known as the “black man’s Heisman.”

Justin Durant

Over the last 29 years that the award has been bestowed, it hasn’t enjoyed the media hype that is routinely associated with the Heisman Trophy. But that should change now, or should in the minds of HBCU gridders that annually get the opportunity to vie for the honor. The 2007 Gaither winner was Justin Durant, the linebacker from Hampton University. He and four other Pirates were invited to the Indianapolis NFL combine (a record for any Division 1AA program). Durant showed up and showed out apparently to the liking of the Jacksonville Jags which snatched him in the second round as the 48th pick of the draft.

I read an ESPN analysis of the pick and while they agree he has the potential to be a solid pro, he was branded with the usual “small school prospect”. Bunk. Obviously, the critic who wrote that hasn’t seen many Hampton games nor is acquainted with their erudite coaching staff. Durant is fundamentally ready to play in any league.

Contrast Durant’s high round selection to that of the 2006 Heisman winner. Ohio State’s Troy Smith wasn’t chosen until the 5th round by Baltimore, the last player selected in the round and the 174th overall selection. Me thinks that in the future, our HBCU coaches and players should stop wasting time and the school’s money campaigning for the Heisman and turn their undivided attention to the 100% Wrongers and the trophy named for one of college football’s greatest coaches.

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A bit of black college history, speaking of the Heisman. In the 71 years of the “coveted” trophy, only three of our “brothers’ from the historically black and proud have received any votes. The highest vote getter was Steve McNair from Alcorn.

In 1994, he received 655 votes and placed third in the balloting. In 1977, Grambling’s Doug Williams placed fourth with 269 votes and in 1984, Mississippi Valley’s Jerry Rice placed 9th. All three were first round draft picks. Rice, a double Gaither winner in 1983 and ’84, was also MVP in Super Bowl XXIII……

Speaking of history, 30 years ago this year, Morris Brown defensive end Ezra Johnson made SIAC history by becoming the first from the conference to be drafted in the first round. He was taken in the 1977 draft by the Green Bay Packers. Ezra, a native of Shreveport Louisiana, currently makes his home in Atlanta. Only one other SIAC gridder has been snatched in round 1 by an NFL team. Fort Valley‘s Tyrone Poole was picked up in the first round of the 1995 draft by the Carolina Panthers..

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Jacoby Jones
Rich Freeman

The 2006 football season was a great time to crow for the Dragons of Lane College. Now, 2007 is getting off to a rousing start for the SIAC college in Jackson Tennessee. Their workaholic wideout, Jacoby Jones, was selected in round three of this year’s s draft by Houston. And Lane’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Rich Freeman is headed home to his native Atlanta as the new head coach of Morehouse College. I have to think that Jones’ selection in round 3 of the draft will do wonders for Head Coach Johnnie Cole’s recruiting efforts. It should also serve as an object lesson for young high school players who sometimes bypass the Lanes, Morehouses, CAUs, Albany States and other HBCUs for what they think is greener grass on the other side of the collegiate sports fence. Jones proves that if you got what it takes, the NFL,CFL or somebody will find you.

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Former South Carolina State Bulldog and Dallas Cowboy great Dexter Clinkscale is serving as director of sports for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push. He recently received some ink when he met with Atlanta Braves hierarchy to discuss the soaring absence of African American faces on professional baseball diamonds. It was especially glaring since we just celebrated the 60th anniversary of Georgia native Jackie Robinson’s entry into the sport in 1947. One of the things middle and high school coaches need to do is encourage talented baseball players to continue in that direction. Although not as plentiful as before perhaps, there are still opportunities to earn baseball scholarships to college. If you watch some college baseball games on the various sports channels, you will see their roster of black players is more anemic than the big leagues……

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I’ve been assured by my friend and associate Willie Jefferies that

J.D. Mathis

another effort will be made in 2008 to get South Carolina High School coaching standout J.D. Mathis inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. It’s long overdue. Mathis, who’s daughter Janice heads the southeast regional office of Operation PUSH in Atlanta, coached the Sterling High School Tigers of Greenville South Carolina from 1946 to 1960. His record during those 14 years was 104-26-17 which included four state titles and two undefeated seasons in 1950 and 1956. In the latter, the team was led by a young quarterback named Jesse Louis Jackson (yes, THAT Jesse). Jesse McClardy, the retired head coach of Clark-Atlanta University, recruited Jackson for CAU back in 1959. “He was the truth,” McClardy remembers.

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Hotlanta’s sports teams have been lukewarm to downright ice cold when it comes to bringing home championship hardware….all but one. Leave it to Hotlanta’s ladies to step in when the men falter. The Atlanta Xplosion, a 6 year old women’s full contact (and I DO mean contact) football team, are the defending national champs of the Independent Women’s Football League. Their 2007 season has commenced and the sistahs are picking up right where they left off. They are 2-0 with victories over Baton Rouge and Miami. Veteran player Cheryl Glover, one of the team’s quarterbacks, says they are aware that being defending champs means everybody is coming at them.

“For them, we are their season,” she tells INSIDE. “We have to make sure we bring our A game every time we hit the field.” The Xplosion, by the way, are also owned by a woman of color, Takela Corbitt. They play their home games at Roswell (Georgia) high school field. (Web site for team is atlantaxplosion.com, for league is iwflsports.com.

Got an item or comment?
Contact Hal at hallamar@comcast.net

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