Hall of Fame notebook: Mel Blount gets some Southern support in Canton

CANTON, Ohio —Mel Blount finally is getting some company from Southern University in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Exactly 25 years after being enshrined in 1989, following a spectacular career with the great Pittsburgh Steelers teams of the 1970s, Blount will be joined Saturday night by former Southern star Aeneas Williams.

Being only the second former Southern player to be elected to the Hall has even more meaning for Williams, who like Blount played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons.

It’s extra special to Williams because his father, Lawrence, attended Southern when Blount was on his way to stardom during his career with the Jaguars in the late 1960s.

“I love football and I’m a historian of the game, so I knew Mel’s statistics and all of that,” Williams said Friday, on the eve of his induction along with six other former NFL greats.

But there’s more.

“Most of all, I knew Mel as a person, and I knew about his relationship with Christ,” Williams said. “I know all about his leadership and his abilities and how he helped that Steelers dynasty become what it did.”

Messing with ‘Mean Joe’

Williams said he can’t help but take a little shot at Blount’s Hall of Fame teammate, defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene, whenever he gets a chance.

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Blount was a superior shutdown corner during his 14-year NFL career from 1970 to 1983.

“I always joke with Joe,” Williams said with a sly grin. “I tell him, ‘If you didn’t have Mel Blount from Southern University at the corner, you wouldn’t have had time to get to the quarterback.’ Again, (Blount) wasn’t just a model on the field but off the field as well. That’s what Mel means to me.”

Slipping on the jacket

Williams and his fellow inductees received the first of their three iconic Symbols of Excellence from the Hall — a gold jacket — at a gala dinner in downtown Canton on Friday night. More than 4,500 attended the dinner, which was broadcast nationally for the first time on NFL Network.

A bronze bust of each inductee will be unveiled at the end of their acceptance speech at Pro Football Hall of Field on Saturday night, and enshrinees will get their rings during halftime of a game at their home stadium this fall.

Smith the singer

Former Kentwood High School and Northwestern State star Jackie Smith, who was inducted into the Hall as a tight end in 1978, will have a new title Saturday night.

The 74-year-old Smith, who was enshrined in 1994 after a 16-year career with the St. Louis Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys, will sing the national anthem before the enshrinement ceremony.

Smith told Hall officials in May that because his school was so small he was a member of Kentwood’s band as well as the football team. He said he maintains a love for music, and singing the anthem at the Hall of Fame was on his “bucket list.”

Soon afterward, he was extended an invitation to sing, and he quickly accepted.

Special awards

In addition to the seven enshrinees, two special awards will be given out.

Former Cincinnati Bengals tight end and longtime broadcaster Bob Trumpy will receive the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, which is presented by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Ed Bouchette, who has reported on the Steelers for 29 years for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, will receive the Dick McCann Award for long and distinguished contributions to pro football from the Pro Football Writers Association.

The lineup

Williams will be third in the order for enshrinement for Saturday’s ceremony, which begins at 6 p.m. CDT.

Derrick Brooks will lead off, followed by Claude Humphrey, Williams, Walter Jones, Ray Guy, Andre Reed and Michael Strahan. Williams’ father will serve as his presenter.

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.