Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC
By Hal Lamar
Photos by Patsy Collier-Lamar
ATLANTA- Thirty seven years ago, Atlanta native Richard Dent left the confines of his Atlanta home in southeast Atlanta’s Kirkwood community to an unpredictable fate as a college football athlete at Tennessee State University in Nashville. But on March 27, 2013, Dent returned to his high school alma mater Murphy (now Crim) High school the conquering hero.
At a special ceremony at the school, Dent accepted a “Hometowner Hall of Fame” plaque sponsored by the NFL Hall of Fame and Allstate. It will be on permanent display at the school.
For over an hour, school officials, former classmates and Dent’s former high school coaches applauded and humorously chided their protégé as a standing room only crowd soaked in every word.
“Richard never forgot his high school alma mater,” said Henry Adams, a school counselor and head basketball coach during Dents’ years at Murphy/Crim from 1975 until graduation in 1978. “Whatever the school wanted or needed in supplies and equipment, he was there to help,” said Adams. “I only regret that Dent’s mentor and head football coach, William Lester is not here to share this moment.” Lester passed away in 2011.
Remembering his mentor during remarks brought tears to Dent’s eyes. “Coach and his wife Charlotte were so good to me,” he said between sobs. “I can remember when I moved from Fulton County to Decatur I found a person (Lester) who really wanted to help me move on in my life. For two years, Mr. Lester would give me a ride home and when he couldn‘t do it , he got his wife to do it. Charlotte, I owe you so much.”
Although starting his athletic career late (in the 11th grade), Adams said once Dent got going, ”there was no stopping.” He lettered in three sports but a next door neighbor and classmate urged him to focus all his attention on football. He began as an offensive lineman until his coaches recognized his speed and agility and quickly moved him to defensive end, a position which brought him fame and attention at TSU and in the NFL. Interestingly, the Atlanta Falcons passed up on Dent in the 1983 draft saying at the time he was “too small” for their needs. Mike Ditka, then the head coach of the Chicago Bears, took Dent in the 8th round of the draft and the rest is pro football history. He became one of the league’s most feared sackers (his career total was 137) and was named MVP of Super Bowl XX. After 11 seasons with Chicago, the four time All-Pro played with the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts and closed out his career with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2011, Dent was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. At Super Bowl XLVII in February, Dent presented the Vince Lombardi trophy to the winning Baltimore Ravens.
“Giving my acceptance speech at the Hall of fame to me wasn’t that tough.” he said at the March 27 ceremony in Atlanta. “Speaking here is harder because this is where it all started for me. People in this room helped shape and guide me to get what I wanted in my heart as someone the community looked up to, your family appreciated and to go and make something of your life. And to you young people in the audience from Atlanta public schools, this is your world. What you want out of it, think about what you want, put a stake in the ground, and then go after it. “
Dent was also presented a proclamation from Atlanta City Council member Natalyn Archibong declaring March 27 Richard Dent day in Atlanta.
Dent is one of three known former student-athletes with the Atlanta school system to hold super bowl rings. In fact, Carlton Williamson, who played at the former Brown High, now Brown Middle School, won two rings as a defensive back with the San Francisco 49ers from 1981 to 1987. Jamal Lewis, a product of Frederick Douglass High School, played for the Baltimore Ravens from 2000 to 2006 and helped the team win Super Bowl XXXV in 2001.
Looks like the date of the 25th Atlanta Football Classic put on annually by the Atlanta chapter of 100 black men of American has changed. According to South Carolina State’s 2013 football schedule, they will play their annual mix with the Aggies of North Carolina A&T here as the classic on October 5, a week later than AFC’s usual date on the last weekend of September. Officials with the 100 couldn’t be reached for comment on these new developments. Sources whispered to INSIDE that the game came close to being a bust for 2013 when the 100 couldn’t come to terms with last year’s opponents Southern and Florida A&M. There was reportedly also some grumbling about having FAMU return without their world famous marching 100 for a second year. Last year’s attempt at a halftime show without the band didn’t appear to go over well with the fans and attendance for last year’s event dropped from the 2011 classic. The looming question now is how many seats can this new amalgam fill? This is not the first classic appearances for the Bulldogs but is for the Aggies…………
XTRA POINTS: My sources on the campus of historic Tuskegee University tell INSIDE that there was more to the resignation of ex-Athletic Director Patric Simon than just for “personal matters.” I’m told pressure from Tuskegee alums in key places forced current President Gilbert Rochon to accept Simon’s resignation. ….Whoever was responsible for making out Tuskegee’s 2013 football schedule should frankly be taken to the woodshed. The Tigers released their slate several weeks ago and it is a wonder to bemoan. Willie Slater’s cats will spend the first six weeks on the road and won’t perform in Cleve Abbott Stadium until October 19 against Stillman. The Golden Tigers, in fact, will be on the road for seven of their ten week slate. Their first three outings (on the road of course) against Alabama A&M, Albany State ( here in Atlanta at the 2nd Inner City Games) and defending national black college champs Winston Salem State will test the meddle of the Goldens………..Did Sonny Liston throw his return match with Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight crown in 1965? Paul Gallender, author of the book “ Sonny Liston-The Real Story behind the Ali-Liston Fights (Park Place Publications) says Liston was forced to take a dive, and claims proof through unimpeachable sources. He devotes 27 pages of his 275 page work to prove it. He also says Liston was unfairly maligned in the media of his day and is actually a lot more compassionate that depicted……Terrance Mathis, a former Atlanta Falcon and of late offensive coordinator for Savannah State University, has stepped down after two years. Head coach Steven Davenport will assume those duties…Reports are Alabama State University may pick up three former players from the University of Alabama dismissed from that school reportedly for disciplinary purposes.
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