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HBCU Football History

The Game Before the Money Oral History Foundation is dedicated to preserving the life and career stories of former college and pro football players. The golden era of HBCU football, from the 1950s – the mid-1970s is vastly undocumented. Because of this, The Game Before the Money launched a project entitled, Their Game, Their Times: An Oral History of the Golden Era of HBCU Football. Interviews have already been conducted with several former HBCU stars, including Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner, Art Shell and Elvin Bethea. A website dedicated specifically to this project, HBCUFootball.org, will be launched soon.

Why is the project, Their Game, Their Times, important?

Many Hall of Fame football players played college football at HBCUs. Those players include Walter Payton, Deacon Jones, and Jerry Rice, some of the most enduring names in pro football. Although the history of major NCAA football programs and the careers of their star players are well documented, the same is not true for HBCU programs.

What are HBCUs?

HBCUs are historically black colleges and universities. Before the mid-1970s, HBCUs provided the only opportunity for many African Americans to attend college and play college football. Many AFL and NFL stars of the 1960s attended HBCUs and likely might not have played pro football otherwise. The list includes such iconic players as Willie Davis, Willie Lanier, and Bob Hayes. At one time, Grambling had the second-most players in the pro football, behind only Notre Dame (source: Esquire). Other HBCUs that placed a high number of players into pro football include Florida A&M, Morgan State, Jackson State, Tennessee State, and Prairie View A&M.

Where can I find Their Game, Their Times?

A series of podcast episodes are currently in development and will be released through The Game Before the Money Podcast. These episodes will include a generous amount of interview material with HBCU legends. Additionally, articles will be written and posted on HBCUFootball.org. If funding permits, a documentary or book may be produced.

Can I donate to Their Game, Their Times?

Yes! The Game Before the Money Oral History Foundation is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit. You can make a donation here. This program is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of Humanities Texas or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

I played or coached HBCU football at some point during the 1940s-1970s and would like to be interviewed for this project. How do I contact you?

Please send an email to MichaelJacksonTX (at) Outlook.com and a member of our team will reply! Thank you!

HBCU Football History Articles

Al Denson shares about growing up with "Bullet" Bob Hayes and playing for legendary Florida A&M coach Jake Gaither.
Al Denson tied for the AFL lead in TD receptions in 1967. He was tied with Otis Taylor, another HBCU football star.
Jake Gaither, HBCU and Florida A&M Coaching Legend
Jake Gaither coached Florida A&M for 25 years. He was Bob Hayes’ college coach.
Ken Houston played college football at Prarie View A&M. 17 future pros were on that Panther team.