By Tribune staff

The Tennessee State Tigers have a proud legacy of participation in the Super Bowl that dates all the way back to the very first one in 1967. With Super Bowl LI set for Houston on Sunday, one of the many events involved will recognize that history as Tennessee State stars will be part of a ceremony honoring Hall of Fame players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Troy Vincent Sr., executive director of Football Operations for the NFL, confirmed this last week in a letter to Tennessee State University’s President Glenda Glover. Vincent’s letter said that the event was designed “to highlight their achievements and also as part of the NFL’s growing relationship with HBCUs.” “Tennessee State University has had a number of former players who have been in past Super Bowls dating back to the first one,” President Glover said in response. “It also speaks to our proud tradition as a university and as an HBCU.” Current TSU Hall-of-Famers are 2011 inductee Richard Dent, who was also the MVP of Super Bowl XX. with the Chicago Bears, and 2014 inductee Claude Humphrey, who played in Super Bowl XV with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Other Tiger greats who may eventually reach the Hall of Fame include Ed “Too Tall” Jones and Jim Marsalis, one of the creators of the “bump and run” style of defense while a cornerback in the AFC. Vincent added that the HBCU Hall of Famers will be recognized in a number of ways, among them an on-field ceremony prior to the Feb. 5 kickoff in Houston. “Very few football players make it to the NFL,” Vincent said. “Fewer still reach the pinnacle of our sport: The Pro Football Hall of Fame. Student-athletes at HBCUs present only a small portion of the college football population, but an amazing 10 percent of all players in the Hall of Fame attend HBCUs.”

The first former Tigers to appear in the Super Bowl were Willie Mitchell and Fletcher Smith in 1967 for the Kansas City Chiefs. More than 20 others have since participated, the most recent being Lamar Divens in 2010, Anthony Levine in 2011 and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2014. Former TSU offensive guard Robert Myers also played on the Denver Broncos squad that won last year’s Super Bowl.

The Tigers were also recognized at last year’s seventh annual John Wooten Leadership Awards in San Francisco for the number of TSU football players who have subsequently appeared in Super Bowls. There have been 31 appearances overall in Super Bowls by former TSU players.