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Cleveland: Nine Native Mississippians Inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame

Brett Lorenzo Favre brings to nine the number of native Mississippians inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That the Magnolia State ranks No. 1 per capita in producing Hall of Famers will not surprise anyone who regularly reads this column.

We may rank low in per capita income, lean body mass, and education, but we can play ball. Boy, can we play football.

Consider: New York, with a population of nearly 20 million, has produced 10 Pro Football Hall of Famers, one more than Mississippi with fewer than 3 million people.

And this doesn’t count Hall of Famers such as Gene Hickerson (Tennessee), Deacon Jones (Florida) and Ray Guy (Georgia) who played their college football in Mississippi.

Mississippi-born Pro Football Hall of Famers include Pelahatchie’s Bruiser Kinard (inducted 1971),  Brookhaven’s Lance Alworth (1978), Yazoo City’s Willie Brown (1984), Gulfport’s Lem Barney (1992), Jackson’s Jackie Slater (1991), Columbia’s Walter Payton (1993), Vicksburg’s Billy Shaw (1999), Crawford’s Jerry Rice (2010), and Kiln’s Favre.

Now seems as good as time as any for a quiz about Mississippi’s Pro Football Hall of Famers. See how many you can answer:

  1. What Mississippian’s draft stock went down because he ran a much slower than expected 4.71-yard 40-yard dash at the NFL draft combine?

2.Which Hall of Famer would probably have attended Ole Miss had it not been for the fact he was married, and Hall of Fame coach John Vaught had a rule against married players?

3.Which Hall of Famer famously recovered his own kickoff in the other team’s end zone for a touchdown in a college game?

4.Which Hall of Famer once sang back-up on a hit record for recording star Marvin Gaye?

5.Which Hall of Famer has a son who now is special teams captain of the New England Patriots?

6.Which Hall of Famer once picked off a Fran Tarkenton pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown in the Super Bowl?

7.Who is the only Pro Football Hall of Fame player who never played in the NFL?

8.Which Mississippi Hall of Famer had only one Division I scholarship offer (to Kansas State)?

9.Which Hall of Famer graduated from college with a major in special education?

Now then, for the answers:

1.If you guessed Jerry Rice, you are right. His college coach, Archie Cooley, was once asked why Rice ran so slowly for scouts. Said Cooley, “Nobody was chasing him.”

2.Lance Alworth. Ole Miss might have won two or three consensus national championships, if the Rebels had recruited the married Alworth out of Brookhaven. He was that good. And he went to Arkansas.

3.Bruiser Kinard. Frank “Bruiser” Kinard was nearly always the biggest, fastest player on the field. In a win over Ouachita College in 1937, Bruiser Kinard scored a touchdown on his own kickoff. He outran the backpedaling return man to his own end zone and fell on the ball for six points.

4.Lem Barney sang back-up on mega-hit “What’s Going On.” In return, Barney helped Gaye get a tryout with the Detroit Lions. Gaye was cut.

5.Jackie Slater’s son, Matthew, who played collegiately at UCLA, excels on special teams for the Patriots.

6.In Super Bowl XI at New Orleans, Willie Brown intercepted Tarkenton and ran right into the end zone cameras and NFL history.

7.Billy Shaw played his entire career for the AFL Buffalo Bills and retired the year before the AFL and NFL consolidated.

8.Walter Payton was in Jackson to catch a plane for Kansas State when JSU coaches (and brother Eddie) changed his mind.

9.Brett Favre, the son of a teacher and a coach/teacher, got his degree from USM in teaching with an emphasis on special education.

  • ••

Rick Cleveland (rcleveland@msfame.com) is historian at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and a syndicated columnist.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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