Canton, Ohio - On Saturday, August 6, 2011, Richard Dent added another milestone to the legacy of Tennessee State University Football and the Department of Athletics.
After decades of Tiger Football legends circling through the National Football League, Dent becomes the first player from TSU to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
The 2011 class included Chris Hanburger, Marshall Faulk, Shannon Sharpe, Les Richter (posthumous), Ed Sabol, and Deion Sanders.
More than 200 TSU supporters including alumni, fans, former teammates, interim president, Dr. Portia Shields and the Aristocrat of Bands, made the trip from Nashville to join Dent in celebrating the crown of his professional football career.
The Aristocrat of Bands also served as Dent's escort during the Timken Grand Parade on the morning of the enshrinement.
"It's a great experience for me. I think it's great to have the Tennessee State band bring me home," said Dent. "They were supposed to be in the back but I wanted them in the front of me. I appreciate you guys (TSU supporters) coming. It really means a lot to me."
TSU Director of Athletics, Teresa Phillips, explained the importance of joining Dent and the festivities through the weekend.
"Well it means, I think right here, being with some of his former teammates and some of the fans who've come up in the caravan with me has to be even illuminating," said Phillips. "When he passed by us in the car (parade), the excitement on his face and just how proud we were - It brought us to near tears. Being the first (enshrined) of hopefully many to follow is so significant. I'm just appreciative of being here with my sons and having the experience."
The Hall of Fame events included the Enshrinee Dinner and Gold Jacket Presentation on Friday evening. Dent was joined by TSU Football legend Joe Gilliam, Sr. who coached Dent for four years as the Tigers defensive coordinator. Gilliam also served as Dent's presenter during the enshrinement.
"I'm glad that I had a part in it. But this is only made possible by Murphy High School and that area, Tennessee State University, its faculty, staff and students -my coaching colleagues at Tennessee State and last but not least the Chicago Bears," said Gilliam. I think all of those people as the old adage goes; It takes a village to raise a child. Then that's the village that raised Richard Dent. Murphy High School, Tennessee State University and the Chicago Bears. So I'm just proud and full of humility just to have been selected to be a part of this."
During the dinner, Dent caught up with TSU Football and NFL legend, Ed "Too Tall" Jones. With TSU fans hoping Jones will be one of the next Tigers enshrined, Jones expressed that he attended this year to support Dent.
"I'm here for Richard Dent. I could think of several guys I think should've gone in before now," said Jones. "Hopefully this will be a spring board for others. Again, I'm so proud of him; I don't know what to do."
Jones also added "I think it's great. I think it's something that should have happened long ago. He (Dent) is certainly deserving. He had a great college, as well as pro career. It just goes to show you how tough it is to be a Tiger. When you come out of Tennessee State, anything can happen."
In his four-year stint at TSU from 1980-83, Dent finished with 158 tackles and once held the career sack record for more than a decade with 39.
In 1983, he was drafted in the eighth round, 203rd pick, of the NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. In 1985, he helped lead the Bears to a Super Bowl XX win over the New England Patriots garnering MVP honors.
In 15 seasons in the NFL he recorded 137.5 sacks. At the time of his retirement, he was third all time behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith. Additional career statistics - including seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (1994), Indianapolis Colts (1996), and Philadelphia Eagles (1997) - include eight interceptions, a safety, and fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Four times he was named first or second team All-Pro, five times All NFC, and selected to play in four Pro Bowls (1985, 1986, 1991, and 1994).
As a member of the Chicago Bears, Dent is now listed on the most long-time members (27) of one organization enshrined in the Hall of Fame. In addition, he joins Shannon Sharpe as the 25th and 26th football players from a Historically Black College and University to be enshrined.