Sports, Thrill of Victory

Tennessee State University’s NFL & Super Bowl legacy

The Super Bowl battle between Seattle and New England airs this evening.

Richard Dent, a former Tennessee State University football player, knows something about defeating New England: As the MVP of Super Bowl XX, he helped the Chicago Bears to a decisive 46-10 victory over the Patriots with two sacks and two forced fumbles. Fans and others may well recall Dent’s appearance in the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” a Grammy-nominated rap song released three months before Super Bowl XX for charitable purposes (Dent is No. 95, appearing just before the 4:00 mark).


TSU’s Claude Humphrey gives his NFL Hall of Fame enshrinement speech August 8. PHOTO CREDIT: TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS

In pregame activities at Super Bowl XLV (Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay), Dent was recognized as one of the 2011 inductees into the NFL Hall of Fame, becoming the first of two former players from TSU in four years to receive the honor. Claude Humphrey, also a defensive lineman for the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, was elected in 2014. Humphrey had 14.5 sacks the year the Oakland Raiders won Super Bowl XV, defeating the Eagles. He started his career with Atlanta in 1968 and was named the Associated Press’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Dent credited his success to Humphrey, among others, in his enshrinement speech.

“When I grew up I used to watch Claude Humphrey,” said Dent, “and I used to watch Tommy Nobis, and Hank Aaron, and Mohamed Ali, so as a kid, I loved Claude Humphrey and didn’t know I was going to go to Tennessee State. I took a little piece of Claude, and little piece of Mohammed Ali [to TSU].”

With inspired determination, Dent, “the sack man,” amassed double-digit sacks for eight seasons, leading the NFL in 1985. He wouldn’t be the only defensive player from TSU to set records and make a memorable impact on an opponent. For instance, Humphrey, the third overall pick in the 1968 draft, is credited for 122 career sacks. It was 30 years before the NFL selected Humphrey for its hall of fame.

“I didn’t expect to get here, but I’m sure glad I did,” Humphrey said in his enshrinement speech.


TSU President Glenda Glover with Claude Humphrey (l) and Richard Dent (r) who were honored at a TSU home football game during the 2014 season. PHOTO CREDIT: TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA RELATIONS

Another former TSU football player TSU fans hope to see sporting the yellow jacket is Ed “Too Tall” Jones, part of the “Doomsday Defense” at Dallas for 15 years and the first overall pick in the 1974 NFL draft. Jones played in several NFC championship games and three Super Bowls (including the 1978 win over the Broncos) and has previously been nominated for the Hall of Fame.

Former cornerback Jim Marsalis (`Kansas City Chiefs, New Orleans Saints), known for employing the “bump and run,” recalls one significant play among the Chiefs’ rout of the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV:

“John Henderson, the Vikings’ wide receiver, came down the field and tried to run the curl pattern. I closed and pushed the ball out around the 25 yard line. We covered the ball and ran right in and scored, and from then, we controlled the game,” Marsalis said.

When asked what it was like to play in the Super Bowl, another former NFL cornerback, Randy Fuller, said, “This time of year always brings back great memories. My first Super Bowl will always hold the fondest memory for me. I was playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team I admired and cheered for as a child. To be able to play for my favorite team I grew up watching, and to have a chance to make the final play in the AFC championship game to send the Steelers to Super Bowl XXX, will always be one of my biggest accomplishments. The high of Super Bowl week and the day of the game make you feel like every dream can be a reality. We came so close to winning [against the Dallas Cowboys]. Losing the game will always hurt, but the journey it took to get there will make you smile forever.

Former TSU Tiger, Pittsburgh Steeler and Atlanta Falcon Randy Fuller with wife Gussie, son Ellington, and daughter Eden PHOTO CREDIT: COURTESY OF RANDY FULLER

Former TSU Tiger, Pittsburgh Steeler and Atlanta Falcon Randy Fuller with wife Gussie, son Ellington, and daughter Eden

“My second attempt would come three years later for my hometown Atlanta Falcons [against the Denver Broncos]. Failing to hoist the trophy in Super Bowl XXXIII, while disappointing, does not take away from the smiles I forever cherish of my family, fans, neighbors, my Tennessee State family, as well as the men I had the pleasure of battling with week in and week out.”

In recent years, three former TSU football players have played in the last two Super Bowls. Among them, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie played for the Broncos in a 43-8 loss against Seattle (this year’s NFC champions), in last year’s Super Bowl. Anthony Pleasant and Lamar Divens played on opposing teams in 2013—Pleasant for the Baltimore Ravens and Divens for the San Francisco 49ers. Altogether, 20 former Tennessee State University football players have played in the Super Bowl.

Rod Reed, TSU’s head football coach—who also played football at TSU with Randy Fuller—said, “It’s just an honor to be able to coach in a program where so many great coaches (not just players) have been.

“When you think of TSU, the first thing that comes to mind is Joe Gilliam, John Merritt, Alvin “Cat” Coleman, Shannon Little, Howard Gentry, [and others]. Then you go to the players and you start talking about Claude Humphrey, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Richard Dent, Mike Hegman, Anthony Shelton, Randy Fuller, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Jim Marsalis . . . I could go on and on.

“Any time you’re associated with a program that has done so many things, not only putting so many guys in the NFL—guys playing in Super Bowls and guys who’ve been drafted, and the coaches, the great football minds, with so much knowledge [about the game], it’s an honor.”

The Super Bowl kicks off at 5:20 p.m. Central Time and will air on NBC. On the radio you can hear the game locally on 104.5 The Zone, and on the following Sirius XM radio channels: SIRI 88 (national), SIRI 85 (home team/Patriots) and SIRI 93 (away team/Seahawks).