By Diane Larche’ (Special to the Daily World)
Mel Blount is many years removed from the cotton farms of South Georgia, but as he accepted his Black College Football Hall of Fame ring and $1,000 check for his Southern University alma mater, he reflected back on his humble beginnings as the youngest of 11 children in Vidalia.
“I had no idea that it would lead to where I am now. I know the importance of hard work and having Christ in my life,” Blount said.
Blount was among 11 football standouts recognized by the Black College Football Hall of Fame during the Priority Payment Systems 2nd Annual Enshrinement ceremony held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta on Feb. 19.
In its second year, the Atlanta-based Black College Football Hall of Fame inducts players and coaches from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) who had significant roles in Black college football. Priority Payment Systems was the title sponsor. This year’s ceremony was held before a sold-out crowd.
Blount admitted his college and subsequent NFL career were “springboards” that allowed him to fulfill the promise he made in his last conversation with his father. “I paid the farm out of debt,” he explained. His mother lived on that farm until her death last July at age 103.
At 6’3″, Blunt spent his entire 13-year pro football career as a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. And now with a physique and face that belies his 63 years, Blount recalled how he left home on a Greyhound bus in 1966 after working the cotton fields on his father’s farm.
With his wife TiAnda in the audience, Blount talked about how important it is for him to reach out to kids, and how he subsequently started The Mel Blount Youth Home for abused and neglected young males in Vidalia that began operating in 1983.
He later opened a second home in the Western Pennsylvania town of Clayville in 1989.
Blount, previously named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, the Louisiana Football Hall of Fame, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, and now to the Black College Football Hall of Fame, said this one is “special.”
Hosted by ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden, the 2011 Hall of Fame inductees also included Lem Barney, Jackson St.; Mel Blount, Southern; Roosevelt Brown, Morgan St.; Willie Davis, Grambling; “Bullet” Bob Hayes, Florida A&M; Joe Kendall, Kentucky St.; Art Shell, Maryland-ES; Doug Williams, Grambling; Coach Earl Banks, Morgan St.; Coach Willie Jeffries, SC State; Sports Info. Dir. Collie J. Nicholson, Grambling.
Deacon Jones, a 2010 inductee, served as presenter, while Hank Aaron, Arthur Blank, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Ambassador Andrew Young served as honorary chairmen of the event.