Much like other prominent American sports, football was plagued by institutional racism for several decades, with college football and the NFL providing plenty of barriers for talented Black players to see the field.
While some prominent programs such as Penn State integrated earlier than others, Black players weren't offered scholarships from several storied programs in the South, including Alabama, into the late 1960s and early 1970s. The only thing that ultimately led to the Crimson Tide and the last holdovers to finally begin recruiting Black players was the competitive balance that began to swing towards schools that had long been integrated.
As a result, Black players were forced to take alternate routes to find success in the sport. The vast majority turned to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which had been playing football since the early 1900s, setting the stage for these schools to bring in some of the best football talent of all-time.
Currently, there are 33 players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who attended HBCUs, which is nearly 10 percent of all the players in Canton. This is an incredible statistic considering the league itself banned Black players from 1936 to 1946 and in 1959, less than 15 percent of the league's players were Black. An even smaller portion of those players came from HBCUs, as most teams didn't even scout those programs.
Thankfully, the American Football League came into existence in 1960 and didn't implement any bans or quotas on Black players. Just as competitive balance changed the game at the college level, the arrival of the AFL forced the NFL to change its ways and in 2020, 70 percent of NFL rosters consist of Black players.
Over the past 60 years, numerous superstars emerged from HBCUs to dominate in the NFL, including Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, and Michael Strahan. These schools provided a path for so many athletes who didn't have any other options to make it to the league, producing a ridiculous amount of talent over the years.
In honor of Black History Month, let's take a look at the five best Seahawks who were drafted out of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Dwayne Harper, CB, South Carolina State
A sign of dramatically different times in the NFL, Harper was selected as an 11th round pick by the Seahawks in the 1988 NFL Draft and appeared in all 16 games for the team as a rookie, recording 34 tackles and a sack. He broke into the starting lineup the ensuing season and never looked back, providing rock-solid consistency in Seattle's secondary. Over the next five seasons, he started 75 games, producing 320 tackles, 13 interceptions, and four fumble recoveries during that span. In 1993, he racked up a ridiculous 10 forced fumbles, which remains tied for an NFL record.
Edwin Bailey, OL, South Carolina State
A fifth-round selection in the 1981 NFL Draft, Bailey started 15 games as a rookie at left guard for the Seahawks, immediately making an impact in the trenches. Though he reverted to the bench for two seasons in favor of veteran Reggie McKenzie, he returned to the lineup full-time in 1985 and wound up starting 120 out of 139 total games played in 11 seasons with the organization. He played on four playoff teams in Seattle, protecting quarterback Dave Krieg and opening up run lanes for star running back Curt Warner to eclipse 1,000 yards four times.
Robert Hardy, DT, Jackson State
Nicknamed "Heart Burn," Hardy joined Seattle as a 10th round pick in the 1979 NFL Draft after starring for the Tigers at the collegiate level. He became an immediate starter for the Seahawks, starting all 16 games at defensive tackle as a rookie. He wound up starting 53 out of 54 games in his first four seasons, producing three fumble recoveries and a pair of sacks. Some statistics were omitted, as the team didn't tally tackles in any of those four seasons. An ankle injury cost Hardy the entire 1983 season and he was released at the end of training camp the following season.
Louis Bullard, OT, Jackson State
Joining Bailey as the highest-drafted HBCU player in franchise history, the Seahawks snagged Bullard with a fifth-round selection in the 1978 NFL Draft. He dressed for all 16 games as a rookie but did not play significant snaps until breaking into the starting lineup in 1980. Despite playing on a four-win team that finished in last place in the AFC West, he started 13 games at left tackle that season. He played several seasons in the USFL before retiring from pro football in 1985.
Jeff Moore, RB, Jackson State
One of two Jackson State players selected by the Seahawks in 1979, Moore arrived as an unheralded 12th round selection and had to scrap to simply earn a roster spot behind starter Sherman Smith. As a rookie, he finished fourth on the team with 168 rushing yards and also caught 14 passes for 128 yards in a reserve role. He spent two more seasons in Seattle, finishing with 385 rushing yards, 42 receptions for 277 yards, and two touchdowns.