Behind The Scenes asks fans to rank the 25 best athletes hailing from HBCUs

ESPN's Jerry Rice during his time on the San Francisco 49ers. (credit?)
ESPN’s Jerry Rice, a former Mississippi Valley State star, is among the athletes in’s HBCU ranker. (ESPN)


Editor’s note: ESPN celebrates Black History Month throughout February with related programming and content.

What do baseball legends Andre Dawson and Lou Brock, Olympic great Wilma Rudolph, two-sport star Althea Gibson and Pro Football Hall of Famers Walter Payton and ESPN’s Jerry Rice have in common?

Each attended historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. Those schools still are producing standout pro athletes.

Witness Lane College’s Jacoby Jones. In Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 4, Jones helped his Baltimore Ravens to victory over the San Francisco 49ers with a two-touchdown performance.

SportsNation's Rank 'Em page
SportsNation’s Rank ‘Em page’s SportsNation page asks fans to attempt a daunting task: Rank the 25 best athletes from HBCUs.

Kelly Shaw, assistant editor and Philadelphia Tribune sports writer Donald Hunt are among those who collaborated on the project. Credit Hunt with great foresight: In 2007, he profiled Super Bowl hero-to-be Jones for

More on the project from Shaw and Hunt:

Who created the poll and were other employees involved?
KS: This was a ranking we did last year for Black History Month, but it only consisted of 10 athletes. I suggested we recreate the ranking and Mark Wright, director of content and editorial services, thought the list should include 25 athletes. We collaborated with Kareem White, talent producer, and created the list.

As an HBCU grad from North Carolina A&T, who’s your favorite athlete?
KS: Al Attles — he coached the Golden State Warriors to an NBA championship in 1975. He is also a fellow New Jersey native and a North Carolina A&T alum – #AggiePride! My favorite athlete on the ranker is Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State); he set multiple NFL receiving records and is known as the greatest wide receiver ever.

As an HBCU graduate from Lincoln University, who was your favorite HBCU athlete?
DH: I’m going to say Doug Williams [Grambling State]. Doug won the Super Bowl for the Washington Redskins with an MVP performance.

Are there any current HBCU players we should be on the lookout for?
DH: Pendarvis Williams is a terrific basketball player for Norfolk State. Williams is a 6-foot-6 guard who can shoot from distance, handle the ball, rebound and play defense. Pendarvis helped Norfolk State upset Missouri in the NCAA tournament last year.

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