June 1, 2017
The National Football Foundation and the College Football Hall of Fame announced the candidates for the 2018 College Football Hall of Fame class. The ballot provides a lengthy list of players and coaches at various levels of college football.
Many names on the list went on to have long and NFL Hall of Fame-worthy professional careers. Some of the players were just stars at the college level and had short or no pro careers.
There are a few names on the list that have ties to our state. It is a prestigious honor if any of those players make into the hall, considering over 5.19 million people have played college football, but only 987 players are in the hall of fame.
One athlete from our state with a great chance of making into the hall is University of Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis. The former Rebel great was a 2006 First Team All-American, 2006 Butkus Award winner, 2006 SEC Player of the Year and two-time First Team All-SEC. Willis went on to play for the San Francisco 49ers and was a star in the NFL. He abruptly retired after the 2014 season, thinking of his long-term health.
Four players from Mississippi Valley State University landed on the ballot. Younger fans will likely know former defensive back Ashley Ambrose the best. He was First Team All-American, First Team All-SWAC, and SWAC Defensive Back and Return Specialist in 1991. He went on to play in the NFL for several teams, including the New Orleans Saints.
Vincent Brown played linebacker for the Delta Devils, was a 1987 First Team All-American and led the nation in tackles in 1986 and 1987. He set an NCAA record at all levels for tackles with 570 and went on to have a successful career with the New England Patriots.
Former MVSU quarterback Parnell Dickerson was First Team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Player of the Year in 1975. He was a three-time All-SWAC selection and was the conference's all-time leader in total offense by the end of his college career. Dickerson played one season in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The final Delta Devil to make the list is former wide receiver Bob Gaddis. He was a 1974 First Team All-American and Pittsburgh Courier National Player of the Year. He was the NAIA 1970 Freshman of the Year. He played in the NFL and CFL during his professional career.
One coach to make the ballot has ties to our state. Head coach Billy Jack Murphy has the most wins in school history at the University of Memphis, which was called Memphis State University during his tenure. He took Memphis to its first bowl game, earned the title of Detroit News’ 1963 Coach of the Year, led the Tigers to an undefeated season in 1963 and was the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year multiple times.
Murphy played his college football at Mississippi State University. He is in the Mississippi, Tennessee and Memphis Sports Halls of Fame.
The National Football Foundation will announce the 2018 Hall of Fame Class during its annual awards dinner on Dec. 4, 2018. The class will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame later that month.