SWAC announces 2017 Hall of Fame class
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The 2017 Southwestern Athletic Conference Hall of Fame Class has been announced, with nine of the league's most influential contributors set to be welcomed.
Alcorn State's James Williams and Roynell Young, Alabama State's Shameka Jackson, Mississippi Valley State's William Brown (posthumous), Texas Southern's Dr. Dwalah Fisher, Prairie View A&M's Clifton Gilliard (posthumous) and Patricia Jackson, Southern's Dr. David Ponton, Jr., and Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Wallace Francis will be enshrined on Nov. 30 at The Westin Galleria in Houston, Texas. The induction is set to begin with a reception at 6 p.m.
The newest members of the Hall of Fame were selected from a list of nominees who were submitted by his or her respective institution. The nominees were then elected for induction by the selection committee from members appointed by SWAC Presidents and Chancellors.
Williams was a dual-sport star for the Braves in the 1960s, earning All-SWAC recognition at cornerback as well as in track and field in 1966 and 1967. Following his collegiate playing days, Williams played for the Cincinnati Bengals for two seasons. Williams, a 1968 graduate from Alcorn, is a member of the Alcorn State University Sports Hall of Fame.
Young also starred on the gridiron during his days on the Reservation, as he was a lockdown defensive back for the Braves under coach Marino Casem. Young earned All-SWAC first team honors as well as All-America accolades in 1979, during which the Braves won the SWAC football championship. Young -- who was named the Black College Defensive Player of the Year in his senior season -- ended his Alcorn career with 20 interceptions and was the first player in Braves history to be chosen as a first round pick (23rd overall, Philadelphia Eagles in 1980). Young later played in Super Bowl XV, was a Pro Bowl selection in 1981, and was voted the Eagles' defensive MVP in 1986. Young eventually played nine years in the NFL.
As a Lady Hornet, Jackson was one of the most dominant women's basketball players in the history of the SWAC. The Saginaw, Mich. native earned Player of the Year honors at the conclusion of the 2002-03 season and garnered All-SWAC distinction three times. At the time of her graduation, Jackson was the fourth player in conference history to score at least 2,000 points in her collegiate career. She graduated from Alabama State University as the school's all-time leading scorer (2,094) -- a figure that ranked second in league annals -- and rebounder (842).
Brown, a posthumous inductee, was a former defensive lineman for Alcorn State University, graduating from the school. Brown is best known for his time as the track and field coach for the Delta Devils' program. While at Mississippi Valley, Brown’s men track and field teams won the NAIA outdoor track championship in 1980 and 1981. The championships served as the first national championships in the school’s history. Brown worked at MVSU from 1968-1997, and is a member of the Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State Sports Halls of Fame.
Fisher currently serves as the Assistant Athletics Director/Senior Woman Administrator for the Texas Southern University athletics department, a post she has held since 2010. Additionally, she is the color analyst for the SWAC Digital Network’s volleyball broadcasts. A TSU almuna, Fisher was one of the great volleyball players in Texas Southern history. The Houstonian earned three All-SWAC nods and four All-Tournament honors as the Lady Tigers' setter, during which the team won three league titles. In 1994, she took over as coach of the Lady Tigers' volleyball program and in her first year at the helm she guided the team to the SWAC volleyball championship. Fisher served as coach from 1994-2010 and also coached the women's basketball team in 1996-1997.
Gilliard was inducted in the PVAMU Sports Hall of Fame in 1994, and was also inducted with the 1958 championship team in 2015. Gilliard was a three-year football letterman and earned All-SWAC honors playing halfback on the third HBCU national championship team in school history under legendary coach William ‘Billy' Nicks. Under Gilliard, men's cross country won three straight SWAC titles, the first league championships in the program's history, in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Men's indoor track won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008, and with a championship in the 2008 SWAC men's outdoor meet, Gilliard's men's program achieved the SWAC Triple Crown (winning titles in cross country, indoor track, outdoor track) in 2007-08.
Jackson was a record-setting track and field athlete at Prairie View A&M, graduating as one of the most accomplished sprinters in the nation. A 2006 inductee into the PVAMU Sports Hall of Fame, Jackson holds the conference record in the 400m dash -- a time which has stood since 1978 -- and was a four-time conference champion and a five-time All-American. A member of the Lady Panthers' 1979 AIAW national championship track team, Jackson won an individual national title in 1979 and went on to compete for the United States in six separate instances.
Ponton's name is littered throughout Southern Jaguars basketball lore, as he was one of the top point guards in the SWAC during the mid-1980s. Ponton led the Jaguars in steals in assists in 1983 and 1985-86, piloting the ship for the 1985 SWAC tournament championship-winning unit. Following graduation from Southern, Ponton took to the sidelines, earning coach of the year honors three times at the helm of the Grambling State women's basketball program. He also served as an assistant coach for Grambling's men's team and was on the sidelines during the Tigers' 1988 SWAC tournament championship run. Currently, Ponton works at Grambling State University as the Vice President of Student Affairs.
A three-time all-Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference selection during his playing days at Arkansas-Pine Bluff during the 1970s, Francis was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills in 1973. Francis enjoyed a decade-long career and made an immediate impact, leading the AFC in kick returns and kick return touchdowns as a rookie. Francis went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons, becoming the team's leading receiver in 1978 and 1979. Recording over 3,600 yards and 27 scores during his stint with the Falcons, he was named the team's MVP in 1979 after making 74 grabs -- second-most in the NFL -- for 1,013 yards and eight touchdowns.