NASHVILLE, TENN. - Tennessee State football greats John A. Merritt, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, and Joe Gilliam Jr. are three of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2013 inductees, announced on Tuesday.
Merritt had a record of 60-32-4 in his first job as head coach at
Jackson State from 1953-62. However, his greatest success was as head
coach at TSU from 1963-1983 where he compiled a record of
172-33-7 for a winning percentage of .811. Five of his teams were unbeaten and five others only lost only one game. His teams were chosen by the Pittsburgh Courier seven times as the Black College National Champions.
Merritt coached 144 players who played professional football, including Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Joe Gilliam Jr. and Claude Humphrey. His total record for 31 years was 232-65-11 for a winning percentage of .753. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
Ed "Too Tall" Jones signed with Tennessee State to play basketball, but
left the team after two seasons to play football under Merritt. His famous nickname comes from a
teammate at his first football practice pointing out that his football
pants didn't fit, because he was "too tall" to play football.
Ed became a two-time All-American defensive lineman, playing on a team that only lost two games en route to winning the Black College Football National Championships in 1971 and 1973. Jones ranks third in school history in sacks in a season (12) and fifth in career sacks (38).
In 1974, Jones became the first player from a historically black college program to be selected as the number one overall pick in the NFL Draft when the Dallas Cowboys made him the No. 1 overall choice. Jones earned Pro Bowl honors three times. He retired at the end of the 1989 season, having never missed a game, playing the most games by any Cowboys player (232) and being tied with two others for most seasons (15).
Joe Gilliam Jr. grew up on the campus of Tennessee State where he shattered every major passing record at the school and countless other black college records.
Gilliam was one of the most popular players in TSU football history and gained his cool nickname when long-time football observers noted that his name was called all along historic Jefferson Street, which runs near the TSU campus in Nashville, Tennessee.
Gilliam was an All-American in 1970 and 1971 at TSU and was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 11th round of the 1972 NFL Draft. He became the Steelers' starting quarterback in 1974, and is known as the catalyst of the 1975
Super Bowl team although he did not finish the year as the starter. Gilliam earned two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers winning Super Bowl IX and X.
The Black College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced its Class of 2013. The newest members were selected from a list of 35 finalists who had been determined earlier this year by the Black College Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee comprised of journalists and former football executives from around the country. Former inductees also submitted their votes in an effort to determine who will join this elite group of pioneers who have significantly impacted college football.
The inductees will be honored February 16, 2013 at the Loews Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia at the Black College Football Hall of Fame's Fourth Annual Enshrinement Ceremony presented by the Atlanta Falcons. The NFL Network's Steve Wyche will serve as Master of Ceremonies for the Enshrinement Ceremony. For more information please visit www.blackcollegefootballhof.org.