On April 12, 2019, Tennessee State University celebrated former TSU players who made it to the pros and the Super Bowl.
The Salute to Greatness-Excellence on the Gridiron took place at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel downtown with a reception and dinner followed by a program. The emcee of the program was legendary and award winning sportscaster Hope Hines.
"This is a great honor for me to come here tonight to honor these guys who have brought so much fame and glory to TSU," Hines said. "This is a great night for TSU and for Nashville. It is these guys and their performances in the NFL that have made TSU Football synonymous with the NFL."
The Honorary co-chairs of this event were Ed "Too Tall" Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Super Bowl Champ Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Pro-Football Hall of Fame Inductee Richard Dent. Hines began his interview by asking Jones how he got his nickname.
"First of all I would like to say that this event is more than just an assemblage of former players, it is an opportunity for us to come back to see our brothers — we all kinda grew up together at TSU,” Jones said. “As for my nickname, when I went to pick up my first TSU football uniform, the pants were supposed to fit at the knee, my pants were way above the knee and when one of the others players saw that, he said, ‘man you are too tall to play football’ and I have been ‘Too Tall’ every since.”
Howard Gentry spoke about the many TSU football coaches like John Merritt, Howard Gentry, Sr. and Joe Gilliam, Sr.
“These were the greatest and they had the greatest impact on our players," Gentry said.
George Balthazar said he played football at TSU before players wore face masks.
"You could always tell the football players on campus because most had missing teeth," Bathazar said.
There were more than 50 former TSU football players and their families in attendance, but who were not recognized including Claude Brumfield of the New York Giants, Larry Mallory of the New York Giants, Robert Woods of the Washington Redskins, Randy Fuller of the Atlanta Falcons, Al Davis of the Philadelphia Eagles, Sonny Lyons of the Minnesota Vikings and Nathaniel Brown of the Minnesota Vikings.
"This is like a welcome home celebration that enables us who have not seen each other in many years to come together and reminisce about the good ole days at TSU,” Brown said. “It is great to see the fellows that I played with and went through blood, sweat and tears with. As a whole this is a great event and I look forward to attending next year as it brought back great memories. Kudos to Hope Hines for doing an excellent job of emceeing this event and to the TSU organizers. We were all excited to see each other again,” Brown said.
Nashville Mayor David Briley sent a message of congratulations: "It is clear friendships made and retained over the years, as well as the special character of TSU, remain today in the hearts of its faithful alumni members. On behalf of the citizens of Nashville, best wishes for a memorable evening of remembrance and fellowship."