NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — The NFL Draft will highlight the future of professional football in a couple of weeks. However, on Friday, Tennessee State University will celebrate former TSU players who competed in the pros, including 21 in Super Bowls.
“Salute to Greatness-Excellence on the Gridiron” will take place at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. A reception is scheduled for 6 p.m., followed by a program/dinner at 7 p.m.
The event leading up to the NFL Draft in Nashville on April 25 is part of TSU’s annual Coming Home-Legends Weekend, which will feature the Blue and White Game on April 13.
“Our history of sending students to play on the professional level of football is special,” says TSU Athletics Director Teresa Phillips. “Those who competed on the highest level were and are great representatives of the university and should be recognized. The ‘Salute to Greatness’ event seeks to bring these stars together to celebrate their collective successes.”
Over the years, more than 150 TSU players went on to compete in the National Football League, Canadian Football League, and other professional leagues.
Those players who did and will be at the April 12 event include Pro Football Hall of Famer Richard Dent, MVP of Super Bowl XX with the Chicago Bears; Ed “Too Tall” Jones, who appeared in three Super Bowls as a member of the Dallas Cowboys; and two-time Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who played in Super Bowl XLVIII with the Denver Broncos.
“When I first learned of the event, I was very excited,” says Jones. “Tennessee State has always had a rich athletics program, even before I got here. This is not a championship team that will assemble, it is all the players coming back to support this as well. I’m looking forward to seeing all of the guys.”
Grant Winrow is the event’s chairman and special assistant to TSU President Glenda Glover. He says it’s great to “welcome our former players back to the school that gave them their start.”
“We thank President Glover for allowing us to carry this vision of celebration during our Coming Home weekend,” says Winrow, who is also director of special projects.
Chris Hope, a former Tennessee Titans Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers, will be the event’s keynote speaker. The master of ceremony is Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Hope Hines, considered a Nashville legend in sports coverage.
“For over six decades, players from Tennessee State University have been cornerstones of the National Football League,” says Hines, who covered TSU sports extensively. “In fact, only a very few colleges and universities have sent more players to the NFL than TSU. The ‘Salute to Greatness’ night is the perfect opportunity to celebrate over 60 years of the brotherhood of Big Blue players who have made Tennessee State University synonymous with the NFL.”
Traci Otey Blunt, a TSU alum and senior vice president of corporate communications for the NFL, agrees.
“I think it’s so dynamic what TSU has done for the sports community, business community, and beyond,” says Blunt. “I scream from the mountaintops that I’m a proud Tennessee State University graduate.”
In 2016, TSU was recognized at the John Wooten Leadership Awards in San Francisco for the number of players who competed in Super Bowls. The university’s football legacy dates back to Super Bowl I in 1967, when former TSU Tigers Willie Mitchell and Fletcher Smith made their appearance as teammates with the Kansas City Chiefs. More than 20 players have followed them over the years.
To learn more about TSU football and the university’s other athletic programs, visit http://www.tsutigers.com.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessee Tribune.