In the 1960s, Mel Blount made his mark as a top athlete in Southern history. Then, during 13 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he won four Super Bowls, became one of the best cornerbacks to ever play in the NFL and stands as the lone Jaguar in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
When his alma mater takes the field on Saturday in the Atlanta Classic, there will be a Blount wearing the familiar No. 47, but he’ll be on the opposite sideline.
His son, Akil Blount, will suit up for Florida A&M, where’s he’s a 6-foot-3, 225-pound freshman linebacker.
“I tried to talk to him about going to Southern, and we even talked with (former SU coach) Stump Mitchell at the time. But he just never wanted to get under that umbrella,” Blount said. “He wanted to go out and chart his own course and blaze his own trail.”
A bonus was playing for Earl Holmes, a former FAMU star who went on to play 10 seasons in the NFL (including six with the Steelers) before taking over his current role as the Rattlers’ defensive coordinator.
Akil Blount has seen action in all four games as a backup on the strong side, registering two assisted tackles. Mel will be on hand for the game, and while he still keeps up with Southern and supports the university, he’ll understandably pull for his son in the Georgia Dome.
“The perfect outcome would be for Akil to make a big play to swing the game and they win it,” he said.
A few days later, Blount will be back in Lyons, Ga., to be recognized by Allstate and the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the “Hometown Hall of Famers” program, which honors players with ceremonies and dedications where their careers began.
“I’m so grateful and so humble to be a part of this,” Blount said. “If somebody would have asked me when I was at Southern University if I could imagine or dream of something like this, I would have had to say no.”
Saturday’s matchup will be Southern’s sixth appearance in the 24-year history of the Atlanta Football Classic, and there’s a chance the Jaguars will be around for the 25th edition as well.
The school’s current deal includes the 2011-12 seasons against Florida A&M, and SU Athletic Director William Broussard said negotiations are under way with the goal of keeping Southern in the game through 2016 — the longest the Jaguars’ schedule will allow for.
That would require moving one future conference game, but it could also mean a solid financial gain. As long as SU hits meets its threshold of a little more than $100,000 in ticket sales, the school receives a full guarantee of $325,000.
Tickets for the game are still on sale from the school’s ticket office; prices range from $10 to $50. For information, call (225) 771-3171.
Southern is 2-3 in the Atlanta Classic, while the Rattlers, who topped the Jaguars 38-33 last year, are 12-4 and making their 15th straight appearance.
Between Jaleel Richardson, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown last week, and Virgil Williams, who racked up 144 return yards against Mississippi Valley State, there’s really no good place for opponents to kick to against Southern.
The Jaguars rank second in the nation in kickoff returns, and Williams knows he might not get too many chances to keep improving their numbers.
“We don’t think too many people are going to keep kicking it deep, but I feel that whoever they kick it to, they’re in trouble and have their hands full,” he said. “I would definitely do a lot of sky kicks to the up-backs or squib kicks, but definitely try to kick the ball away from me and Jaleel.”