Commentary: The HBCU Legacy Bowl is a pathway to the National Football League for our student-athletes

Commentary: The HBCU Legacy Bowl is a pathway to the National Football League for our student-athletes
February 23
12:42 2022

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Let’s say with great pride and conviction that the HBCU Legacy Bowl held on Saturday was a rousing success. It was a defining moment in the storied annals of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Sometimes, if you live long enough, life will give you some unexpected surprises. It will give you something “extra.” In New Orleans, that something extra is called “lagniappe.”

If you had asked me some years back about an all-star football game featuring HBCU student-athletes, I probably would have said it’s a great idea, but it probably won’t happen.

There would have been multiple reasons for our answer. For example, no sponsors, no stadium, and no money. You can probably add a few reasons of your own.

I was incorrect in my assertion. Glad that I was.

Blessings come in different ways and at different times. We know they may not come when you want them, but they are right on time.

On a bright, sunny day in February, history was made. Feb. 19 was a stellar day for HBCU athletics. At 3 p.m. the inaugural HBCU Legacy Bowl kicked off at Yulman Stadium on the campus of Tulane University. There were two teams made up of all-stars from the four major African American athletic conferences. They were called Team Gaither and Team Robinson.

Jake Gaither and Eddie Robinson were legendary coaches at Florida A&M University and Grambling State University respectively.

The halftime entertainment was provided by two iconic bands, Grambling State University and St. Augustine High School (New Orleans). They gave the audience the pop and the flair that made everyone get on their feet.

The entire HBCU Legacy Bowl weekend had so many highlights and had something for everyone.

There was the HBCU Legacy Bowl Career Day held at the Hyatt Hotel. It was designed for area students to find out about job opportunities at national companies.

This celebration of HBCU excellence gave would-be employers the chance to meet with students. It is my thinking that many of them left with job offers in hand. Careers in their chosen fields give graduates the opportunity to network and to build professional relationships.

In many ways, that is how events like the HBCU Legacy Bowl came to be. It’s people making recommendations to others within their circle of influence. The Black College Football Hall of Fame and multiple sponsors were the catalysts for the creation of the HBCU Legacy Bowl.

Some of the founding partners were the New Orleans Saints, Adidas, Riddell and, 15 And The Mahomes Foundation.The co-founders of the Black College Football Hall of Fame are James “Shack’ Harris and Doug Williams. It is sponsored by the Shack Harris and Doug Williams Foundation. Both are alums of Grambling State University and played quarterback there.

Other Black College Football Hall of Fame trustees are Mel Blount (Southern University), Willie Lanier (Morgan State University), and Art Shell (University of Maryland Eastern Shore). All of them had outstanding careers in the National Football League. They excelled and achieved at the highest levels of the game. The commonality which brought them together was that they wanted other HBCU student-athletes to be successful, both on and off the field.

It is my strong belief the HBCU Legacy Bowl will become an annual event. There were sponsors waiting in the wings to gauge the event’s support.

They are now believers.

They are ready to sign on for next year’s game and activities. The barometer for success is so high and that is great news for everyone involved. Saturday’s game showed that fans will show up to watch talent and future stars.

Team Gaither defeated Team Robinson 22-6. Quarterback Geremy Hickbottom (Tennessee State University) was named Offensive Most Valuable Player and defensive back Antwan Collier (Florida A&M University) was named Defensive Most Valuable Player.

There were no losers, only winners at the HBCU Legacy Bowl. Futures were made and careers were started. Pro scouts were in attendance, and agents were ready to meet their new clients.

We will see many of these young men playing on Sunday in the NFL.The HBCU Legacy Bowl is building a legacy.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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