August 23, 2010
Pro Football Hall of Famer Mel Blount and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams among Those to be Honored at Annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge Legends Reception
Pro Football Hall of Famer Mel Blount (Southern University) and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams (Grambling State University) lead a group of six honorees who will be recognized at the MEAC/SWAC Challenge Legends Reception at the Ballroom of the Americas at Disney’s Contemporary Hotel, near Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. ET. Also to be saluted as Legends: Author Omar Tyree (Howard University), U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Zeita Merchant (Tougaloo College), Kellogg’s Senior Vice President of Global Nutrition/Corporate Affairs Celeste Clark (Southern University), and former NFL linebacker and seven-time Pro Bowl player Robert Brazile (Jackson State University).
The reception will honor individuals who graduated from a Historically Black College or University. Each honoree will receive an HBCU Trailblazer Award in recognition of the impact made in his or her respective career and community. ESPN Sportscaster Jay Harris will co-host the festivities alongside motivational speaker Trey Godfrey.
The Legends Reception will precede the sixth annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney, which will feature a college football matchup between the SWAC’s Southern University and the MEAC’s Delaware State University. The game will kick off Sunday, Sept. 5, at noon at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium in Orlando and will be televised nationally on ESPN and ESPN HD, as well as ESPN3.com.
“It’s fitting that the MEAC/SWAC Challenge acknowledges the legacy of those who paved the way for the future leaders who will graduate from historically black colleges and universities,” said Nikki Godfrey, executive director of the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. “We are thrilled to host this ceremony, which will continue to grow and make our event even more special.”
Individual tickets for the game are available through Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or via www.ticketmaster.com. Fans can also purchase travel packages through Anthony Travel’s website or by calling 1-888-632-6951. For more information about the MEAC/SWAC Challenge and for access to its Facebook page, please visit the official website: www.meacswacchallenge.com. Fans can also stay up to date on the event via Twitter: www.twitter.com/MEAC_SWAC.
About the Legends
Mel Blount, a graduate of Southern University, spent 13 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, was a five-time Pro Bowl player, the 1975 Pro Bowl MVP, four-time First Team All-Pro and four-time Super Bowl champion. The former defensive back and 1975 Defensive Player of the Year is regarded as one of the greatest to ever play the position in the NFL. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame shortly after. In 1990, in his home state, he was named to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. After spending several years as the NFL’s Director of Player Relations, Mel now devotes his time to running the Mel Blount Youth Home in Pennsylvania, which is a shelter and Christian mission for victims of child abuse and neglect. Blount founded the charity in 1983 in his hometown of Vidalia, Ga.
Doug Williams played for legendary coach Eddie Robinson at Grambling State, where he was two time Black College All-American Offensive Player of the Year and AP All-American. Taken in the first round of the 1978 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Williams led the Bucs to three playoff appearances and one NFC title game. He went on to play briefly in the USFL before signing with the Washington Redskins in 1986. Most notably, Williams is known for being the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, leading the Redskins to a definitive victory over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII. After his playing career, Williams became head coach at his alma mater, leading Grambling State to three straight SWAC titles. He later returned to the Tampa Bay Bucs as player personnel executive. Williams is now the general manager of an expansion franchise in the UFL. Doug is also the founder a nonprofit foundation that provides grants for after school initiatives, leadership development, mentoring programs and higher education assistance.
Omar Tyree, a Howard University graduate, is one of the foremost contemporary writers in the African-American Community. The New York Times best-selling author and has published 19 books with 2 million copies sold worldwide. He has been recognized with the 2001 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in Fiction, the 2006 Phillis Wheatley Literary Award for Body of Work in Urban Fiction and has been cited by the City Council of Philadelphia (his hometown) for his work in Urban Literacy. Tyree is also regularly called upon as a public speaker, most noted for his popular “Equation for Life” speech. Also having delved into international business and seminars, urban children’s books, stage plays, feature films and songwriting, Tyree is widely considered a tireless creator and visionary of few limitations.
Zeita Merchant, a graduate of Tougaloo College, is a lieutenant commander in the United States Coast Guard. Born in Chicago and raised in Jackson, Miss., Lt. Cmdr. Merchant joined the U.S. Coast Guard in 1997 via the CG Minority Officer Recruit Effort (M.O.R.E.) program and now serves as one of the Coast Guard’s senior African-American female officers. Over the last two years, she had done extensive work with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, which resulted in executive level Coast Guard participation, and sponsorship. Lt. Cmdr. Merchant is an avid volunteer and has organized numerous community service initiatives with organizations such as the Ripple Institute, Partnership in Education and Habitat for Humanity.
Celeste Clark, a graduate of Southern University, has been Kellogg Company’s Senior Vice President, Global Public Policy and External Relations since 2006. In August 2008, Dr. Clark assumed the responsibility of Chief Sustainability Officer. She is also a member of the company’s global leadership team and is responsible for providing leadership for Kellogg’s worldwide communications, nutrition marketing programs, consumer affairs and corporate administrations functions. She is also a company liaison worldwide between professional associations, government agencies and trade associations on nutrition health policy and advertising practices.
Robert Brazile Jr., a Jackson State University graduate, played for the NFL’s Houston Oilers for nine years. The former linebacker nicknamed “Dr. Doom” was a first-round selection taken with the sixth pick in the 1975 NFL Draft. In that season, Brazile was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, and he was named to the Pro Bowl that year and for seven straight seasons. Pundits consider him key in popularizing the 3-4 defensive effort of sending an outside linebacker to rush the quarterback. He finished his career with 1,281 tackles, which ranks second on the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans’ all-time list. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1970s and in 2007 was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Brazile now resides in Mobile, Ala., where he is a middle school teacher for children with special needs.
About the MEAC/SWAC Challenge
Each year, the MEAC/SWAC Challenge is played at a neutral site within the footprint of one of the conferences. The week of the game includes ancillary events, highlighted by an annual high school career panel, the Halftime Battle of the Bands and the Legends Reception. The MEAC leads the series 4-1. Teams for future games are determined on an annual basis.