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Black College Football Hall of Fame Announces Class of 2017

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10/26/2016

The Black College Football Hall of Fame (BCFHOF) announced its Class of 2017 today. Six inductees were selected from a list of 25 Finalists who had been determined earlier by the BCFHOF Selection Committee.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame and the Black College Football Hall of Fame recently announced a historic partnership that provides the BCFHOF with a permanent home at the PFHOF as a part of the new Hall of Fame Village, a $500 million development of the PFHOF’s campus. The two organizations will also work together on joint programs and events including: hosting the annual BCFHOF induction ceremony at Hall of Fame Village; expanded educational programming and special events at the PFHOF during Black History Month; a travelling exhibition; and post-graduate internship opportunities for graduates of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The partnership also includes a future BCFHOF HBCU Classic to be held at the new Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton and a major permanent exhibition inside the PFHOF.

The Class of 2017 includes Parnell “Paydirt” Dickinson (Mississippi Valley State), Harold “Sunny Jackson (Jackson State), Gary “Big Hands” Jackson (Grambling State), Robert Porcher (South Carolina State, Tennessee State), Isiah “Butch” Robertson (Southern) as player inductees and Coach Billy Joe (Cheyney, Central State, Florida A&M, Miles College).

“This class is another representation of the immense football talent that has played at historically black colleges and universities,“ said BCFHOF Co-Founder and 2012 Inductee James “Shack” Haris. “All five players were college All-Americans, and three were first round NFL draft picks.”

Votes were tallied from the 12-member Selection Committee, comprised of prominent journalists, commentators and historians, as well as former NFL General Managers and executives, and from previous BCFHOF inductees to determine the Inductees.

The Class of 2017 will be honored at the Eighth Annual Black College Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Presented by the Atlanta Falcons on February 25, 2017. The Induction Ceremony takes place at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Inductees will also be recognized at the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on December 17th.

Parnell “Paydirt” Dickinson

As a standout quarterback at Mississippi Valley State University, Parnell “Paydirt” Dickinson’s career was highlighted over the first three season with leading the Southwestern Athletic Conference in total offense.

He was named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics all-star his freshman year and awarded the team’s top sportsman award, his sophomore year, given to the player with the best attitude and morale.

At the conclusion of his college career, Dickinson was named the Black College All-American football team for the consecutive year.

Drafted by the Tampa Buccaneers in 1976, Dickinson started one game for the then expansion Bucs and played in another seven games as a back-up to Steve Spurrer. His first start came against the Dolphins and was off to a perfect 4 of 4  passing when he suffered a knee injury and was lost for the rest of the season.

He finished the 1976 season with 210 passing yards, 103 rushing yards and one touchdown.

After his retiring from football, Dickinson started a career in insurance and opened two daycare centers and in 1992, he received high honors and was an inaugural member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame.

Harold Jackson

A five-time Pro-Bowl receiver, Harold Jackson was a force at the wide-out position. A full scholarship athlete at Jackson State University, Jackson went onto to having a 16-year playing career in the NFL.

He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1968 and after a rough first season with the Rams, Jackson was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles where he flourished. He led the league in receiving yards and yards-per-game, during the 1971 season.

Bouncing from the Rams to the Eagles, in 1978, Jackson went to New England for four years and completed his playing career with single-season stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.

Jackson finished his professional career with 10,000 receiving yards.

After retiring from professional football, Jackson coached 10 years in the NFL, New England (1985-89), Tampa Bay (1992-93) and New Orleans (1997-99).

Jackson currently resides in California and is involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  

Gary “Big Hands” Johnson

Playing under the guidance of legendary head coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State University, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson was a star for the Tigers. He earned NAIA All-American honors, All-Southwestern Conference status three-times and team MVP honors in 1974.

Selected by the San Diego Chargers in the first round of the 1975 NFL Draft, Johnson spent nine seasons with the Bolts before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers.

As a Charger, Johnson, was a first team All-Pro in 1980 and ’81 and made four Pro Bowl appearances. He also recorded 17 ½ sacks, which is still a Bolt record.

During the 1984 season, Johnson split his playing time with the Chargers and 49ers. He was a member of the San Francisco team that won Super Bowl XIX in 1985.

Following his professional football career, he was enshrined in the Chargers’ Hall of Fame in 1999 and named to the San Diego Hall of Champions in 2007.

In 2010, Johnson died of complications from a stroke.

He was given the nickname “Big Hands” by a teacher in eighth grade when he went to pick up a basketball in P.E. class in Bossier City, La.

Johnson was 57 at the time of his death.

The five players represent 18 NFL Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pro selections, three First Round Draft picks, a Rookie of the Year and a Super Bowl Champion. Five out of the six inductees are living (Big Hands Johnson passed away in 2010).

Billy Joe

Billy Joe spent seven season playing in the NFL before transitioning into a college football head coach.

Cheyney State gave Joe his first opportunity to prove himself as a young head coach with no previous coaching experience in 1972. He didn’t disappoint. He immediately saw success and continued to win with the program for six seasons before heading to the NFL as an assistant coach for two seasons.

Joe returned to college as the head coach of Central State after his coaching stint in professional football. He turned the Marauders into a national black college powerhouse. In 13 years at CSU, he won five straight Black College Football National Championships, led his teams to 11 consecutive playoff appearances and had six seasons where he lost only one game.

After seeing success with Central State, Joe took the head coach position at Florida A&M. He quickly turned this program around. He led the Rattlers to an unprecedented five Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles and was named the MEAC Coach of the Year three times during his 10-year career with Florida A&M.

Joe finished his coaching career at Miles College where he spent three seasons with the school.

The legendary coach finished his career with 237 wins in 34 years, the second most all time in the black college football standings and fourth all time in the Football Championship Subdivision. He developed five Black College National Players of the Year.

Highly respected among his peers, he served as vice president of the American Football Coaches Association in 1993 and was elected president of the organization in 1995. Joe was enshrined into the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame, Florida A&M University Sports Hall of Fame, and the MEAC Hall of Fame. Joe is also an active member of the American Football Coaches’ Association.

Isiah "Butch" Robertson

Isiah Robertson earned a scholarship to play collegiate football at Southern University where he joined Gold Jacket Mel Blount on the team. During his time there, Robertson recorded 11 interceptions, including a length-of-the-field return for a game-winning touchdown against Grambling with seconds left to play. For his efforts, he became the universities first College Division All-America selection as a senior in 1970.

Robertson was later drafted by the Los Angeles Rams at the 10th overall pick in the 1971 NFL Draft. He immediately made an impact as a rookie. He tallied four interceptions in 14 games to earn NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

He spent eight seasons with the Rams before heading east to Buffalo where he played for the Bills for four more seasons. In all, he played in 168 games and had 25 interceptions, 15 fumbles record, four touchdowns, was elected to six Pro Bowls and earned First-Team All-Pro Honors twice.

Robertson spent a lot of his free time off the field volunteering for different organizations. He was involved with Special Olympics, coaching Little League baseball and Junior All-American football and held football schools for underprivileged children in southern California.

After his playing career ended, Robertson established the House of Isaiah, a long-term drug and alcohol recovery program for men, located in Texas. He has lectured to thousands all over the United States and Canada with his dynamic platform message: "Run to Win!"

The accolades didn’t stop for Robertson after his playing career. He was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame and the Southern University Sports Hall of Fame.

Robert Porcher

Robert Porcher spent the first part of his collegiate career at Tennessee State University. During his time with TSU (1987-88), Porcher recorded 33 tackles, a fumble recovery, a quarterback sack and a pass backup.

After two seasons playing for the Tigers, Porcher transferred to South Carolina State where he finished his college career. He was a standout defensive lineman for the Bulldogs. As a senior in 1991, he started every position on the defensive line for SC State. He recorded 88 tackles, with a league-leading 15 sacks and 24 tackles for loss.

He also earned All-America honors from the Poor Man’s Guide to the NFL and Kodak, and was named the Division I-AA Defensive Player of the Year by the NFL Draft Report.

Porcher made history at his alma mater in 1992 when he became the first SC State player to be drafted number one in the NFL as he was taken in the first-round by the Detroit Lions, the 26th pick overall. In addition to being the only NFL first-round draftee at SC State, where he earned a criminal justice degree in 1992, Porcher was inducted into the Hall of Fame at his alma mater in 1998, had his jersey (#94) retired in 2001 and was named to the Bulldog Centennial Football Team in 2007.

During much of his 13-year playing career in the NFL with the Lions, he was one of the league's most productive and feared defensive ends. Porcher played in 187 games, third-most all-time in team history, and set a club record with 95.5 quarterback sacks during his career. He led Detroit in sacks eight times, more than any Lion in history. He also became the first Lion to record double-digit sack totals in four consecutive seasons, 1996-99.

Porcher earned trips to the Pro Bowl in 1998, 2000 and 2002. He also finished his career with 24 career games notching more than one sack. From 1996-2001, Porcher garnered 68 sacks during that six-year period which was the second-highest in the NFL during that span. His 673 career tackles are ranked seventh in Lions’ history.

Off the field, Porcher became actively involved in the community. His foundation for cancer research and relief fund raised thousands of dollars for programs at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Lions annual Man of the Year award is named the Robert Porcher Man of the Year in honor of his tremendous contributions to the community

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