SWAC Inducts Seven into Hall of Fame
December 7, 2005
The Southwestern Athletic Conference announces its 2005 Hall of Fame class. The seven members will be formally inducted on Friday, December 9, at 7:00 p.m. at the Sheraton Ballroom in Birmingham, AL. The 2005 group consists of:
- Jerry Rice - Mississippi Valley State
- Willie Davenport - Southern
- Harold Blevins - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
- Larry Wright - Grambling State
- Robert Braddy - Jackson State
- Reuben Watson - Mississippi Vocational College
- Rod Paige - Jackson State
Jerry Rice - Mississippi Valley State University
Jerry Rice was a four-year starter at wide receiver at Mississippi Valley State University (1981-84). He was a three-time All-SWAC award winner, setting numerous MVSU and Southwestern Athletic Conference records which have stood the test of times for over 20 years.
Rice, one half of the famed "Satellite Express", has been partially credited with bringing Mississippi Valley State into the limelight and into the eyes of national media. He remains the Delta Devils' only first-round draft pick into the National Football League.
While at MVSU, Rice set all-time SWAC receiving records with 310 career catches. He recorded the most catches in a game (24); most receptions in a season (103); most receiving yards in a career (4,851); and most points in a career (310). Rice also holds records of most touchdowns in a game (5), most touchdowns in a season (27) and most touchdowns in a career (51). He exceeded 1,000 yards receiving for three consecutive years. In 1984, Rice was named MVP of the Blue-Gray Game and participated in the Freedom Bowl All-Star Game. He has been selected to SBN Sports Network's Black College Football All-Time team.
Arguably, the greatest receiver to play the game, Rice was selected as the 16th overall pick of the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Twenty-years later, Rice announced his retirement after making the Denver Broncos as the fourth receiver, a tribute to his dedication and longevity in the sport.
Willie Davenport - Southern
Willie "Breeze" Davenport is best known as one of just eight Americans to compete in both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Davenport made the 1964 U.S. Olympic team (Tokyo) where he was a semifinalist in the high hurdles. He left the Army to study physical education at Southern University. In another opportunity, he made the U.S. team for the 1968 Mexico Games and won his gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles. In 1972, he placed fourth in the hurdles in the Munich Olympic Games. He then returned to Southern to receive a master's degree in physical education in 1973.
In the 1976 Montreal Games, he earned a bronze medal in the hurdles and was selected by his team members to carry the American flag in the closing ceremony. Four years later, in 1980, he became the first African-American to represent the nation in the winter Olympics when his team captured the best qualifying time and set a new world record in the four-man bobsled event. In 1991, he was inducted into the Olympic Hall of Fame, an honor reserved for only a few select individuals in the world.
Harold Blevins - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Arguably one of the top scorers in Arkansas-Pine Bluff history, Blevins was a four-year starter (1961-65) for the Golden Lions and averaged nearly 30 points per game as a senior.
The Tuscaloosa, Alabama native was a three-time NAIA All-American and he earned All-SWAC honors throughout his collegiate career. He led the conference in scoring as a junior and a senior and earned all-conference honors four years. Blevins was a leading candidate for All-American status each year of his career.
While playing for Arkansas AM&N College (now the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Blevins teamed with point-guard James "Mack" Allen to give the Lions one of the nation's top backcourts. Blevins, a shooting guard, helped the Lions lead the NCAA Division II ranks in team scoring averaging nearly 100 points per game during the 1963-64 campaign.
Following his senior season, Blevins became the first UAPB player drafted into the National Basketball Association when the New York Knicks selected him in the second round of the 1965 draft. Despite never playing football in college, he signed a free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys that same year.
After a military stint and two junior college coaching tenures, Blevins returned to coach the Arkansas-Pine Bluff men's basketball team from 1995 to 2001. In his second season (1996-67), the program garnered one of their biggest wins when they upset the University of Houston to begin the season.
Larry Wright - Grambling State
Larry Wright was one of the most decorated Grambling players to ever hit the hardwood. Playing from 1973-76 he was named the Southwestern Athletic Conference Freshman of the year in 1974. Before his career was finished he was an All-SWAC selection two other times. Wright was also a two-time first team NCAA Small College All-American and led the G-Men to the 1976 SWAC Tournament Championship. Following his junior season (1975-76), he was the SWAC Player-of-the-Year and entered the NBA draft where he was a first round pick of the Washington Bullets. Making him the only first round draft pick from Grambling State.
In Wright's second season in the NBA (1978), he helped to lead the Bullets to a World Championship. He stayed with the Bullets until 1980 when he was traded to the Detroit Pistons. In 1982 after leaving the Pistons, Wright led Italy's Banco DiRoma to the European Championship and was named the best player in Europe.
He was named the head men's basketball coach at his alma mater on May 12, 1999.
Robert Braddy - Jackson State
A former JSU baseball coach and athletic administrator, Robert Braddy is one of the more recognizable figures in Tiger athletics. A 1985 inductee of the Jackson State Hall of Fame, he was also named to the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2003.
A 1964 graduate of Jackson State, he was a two-time all-conference pitcher. As a coach, Braddy had an all-time record of 823-555-3 in 28 seasons at the helm of the Tiger baseball team. The Tigers won 12 conference titles and advanced to the NCAA tournament three times. Braddy was named NAIA District 40 Coach-of-the-Year twice and was named SWAC Coach of the Year eight times.
He reached his 500th career victory in 1988 with a win over Alabama State and his 700th career game in 1996 with a victory over Mississippi Valley State. Since his first season at Jackson State, 52 of his players have reached the professional ranks, including Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd, Marvin Freeman, Wes Chamberlain, Earl Sanders and Dave Clark.
During his time at JSU he served as assistant athletic director and in 1995 held the position of interim director of athletics.
Rod Paige - Jackson State
On January 21, 2001, the United States Senate confirmed Dr. Rod Paige as the 7th U.S. Secretary of Education. For Paige, the son of a principal and a librarian in public schools, that day was the crowning achievement of a long career in education. He earned a bachelor's degree from Jackson State University before going on to earn a master's and a doctoral degree from Indiana University.
From 1962 to 1969, he worked as the head coach of the Jackson State football team, followed by a ten-year stint as football coach and dean of the College of Education at Texas Southern University, where he founded the school's Center for Excellence in Urban Education. While at Jackson State, he was known for his ability to instill dedication, hustle and the sheer will to excel into his players both on and off the field. In 1968, 11 of Paige's players were drafted into the NFL, including defensive back John Outlaw, flanker Harold Jackson and lineman Tom Funchess. This fact is even more remarkable by the knowledge that he had only three assistants on his staff at the time.
Rueben Watson - Mississippi Vocational College (now MVSU)
Watson attended Mississippi Vocational College (now Mississippi Valley State) where he studied health and recreation with a minor in mathematics. He was a four-year letter winner in basketball and a three-year starter.
Receiving All-SCAC honors in 1958-59, he averaged 28 points and 19 rebounds per game. He had a game during that season in which he had 55 points and 15 rebounds. A two-year team captain and most valuable player, he graduated in 1959 with a bachelor's degree. He also received a master of science (1972) and an educational specialist (1957) from Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi.