Who: Grambling State vs. Tennessee State
Where: Tom Benson Stadium (Canton, Ohio)
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
TV: NFL Network
Radio: 96.3 FM (Ruston), 103.1 FM (Monroe)
Radio Talent: Santoria Black (PxP), Ossie Clark (Color), Nick Harrison (Sideline), T Lay Collins (Sideline)
By T. Scott Boatright
Once upon a time, they were the two top programs in the heyday of Black College Football — Grambling State and Tennessee State.
The two schools rank one and two, respectively, in number of all-time HBCU national championships with GSU earning 16 and TSU capturing 15. The two programs also have sent the most former players on to play professional football, with more than 200 former G-Men taking the next step while Tennessee State has had 121 NFL draftees in its storied history.
And at 3 p.m. Sunday, Grambling State and Tennessee State will meet again as the teams open the 2021 season by facing off in the Black College Hall of Fame Game at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
Grambling has won the last five meetings and holds a 22-18-1 all-time lead over Tennessee State, winning 49-14 in the most recent matchup in 2002.
The SWAC did hold a six-game spring season earlier this year, with Grambling going 0-4 with two games cancelled by COVID-19 protocols.
GSU head coach Broderick Fobbs is simply happy to put that in the past and return to the playing field for a fall game.
“It’s good to finally get to a football season in the fall,” Fobbs said. “We’ve been fighting for this opportunity for a long time. We’ve been hitting each other for so many days now — it’s time to go against someone else.”
Fobbs said he’s excited for his team to have the opportunity to begin their hopeful turnaround on a national stage and get the opportunity to see the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Our student athletes are looking forward to getting in there and seeing some of the greats that have worn the gold jacket and get the opportunity to see some things we have not seen and will hopefully inspire our young people,” Fobbs said. “And that’s part of what all of this is all about also.”
But he also realizes that in the midst of that excitement, changes and challenges lie ahead.
“There are several student athletes where this will be their first time getting on an airplane … first time playing in front of a large crowd and first time playing on national television.” Fobbs said. “There’s going to be a lot of firsts for a lot of young players. You never really know the personality of your team until you get put into a pressure cooker.”
Another challenge will be facing a Tennessee State team led by new head coach Eddie George, a former NFL standout and College Hall of Fame running back who has never coached before. TSU’s offensive coordinator is former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson and their defensive coordinator is Trent Fisher, who served as a defensive analyst at Auburn last year and is the son of former NFL head coach Jeff Fisher (Rams and Titans), who himself is serving as an adviser for George, who played under him for the Houston Oilers and then the Titans.
“Especially with new staffs you’re kind of wish-hunting and fishing and looking for various things where coaches have been but also different players that they’ve brought into their program as well,” Fobbs said. “Tennessee State has always done a good job of recruiting and they’re going to be a good football team. That’s just what they’ve always been.
“But then you add to that a really good staff. Coach George and his coaches have a lot of great experience — it’s going to be another tough job for us.”
Photo: T. Scott Boatright
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