Morgan honors 4 ex-pro football greats

Former Bears Brown, Ford, Kelly and Lanier have numbers retired

October 26, 2002|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Morgan State reached into its storied football past yesterday to honor its four former players who became members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

On the eve of the Bears' homecoming game against Delaware State, Willie Lanier, Leroy Kelly, Roosevelt Brown and Len Ford became the first to have their jersey numbers retired by the school in a ceremony at Hill Field House.

They were to be further saluted at a black-tie dinner last night after the three living honorees addressed the current Morgan team.

Ford, who died in 1972 at age 46, was represented by his daughter, Deborah, who came from Detroit for the ceremony.

Also saluted with a plaque for more than 40 years of service was equipment manager Arno Adams, whom head coach Donald Hill-Eley labeled "the real coach" of the football team.

Lanier, who wore No. 65 at Morgan, is a familiar figure on the campus as chairman of the athletic subcommittee. He said, "All of my skills and background were grounded at this place."

Lanier was a two-time Small College All-American who led the Bears to an 8-0 record in 1966, capped by a victory in the Tangerine Bowl. He had an 11-year pro career as a linebacker with the Kansas City Chiefs that included a win in Super Bowl IV.

Kelly succeeded the immortal Jim Brown as the Cleveland Browns' primary runner. He had three 1,000-yard seasons, won two NFL rushing titles and two punt return titles, and retired with 7,274 yards rushing and 74 touchdowns.

Roosevelt Brown played under legendary coach Eddie Hurt and was a two-time Black All-American before joining the New York Giants at the age of 20 and becoming a starter on their offensive line for 13 years. He was an All-NFL pick for eight straight years and played in nine Pro Bowls. A 27th-round draft pick 49 years ago, he still scouts for the Giants.

"The hardest man I ever had to block was Len Ford," Brown said. "He was 6-6 and 280 pounds and I was about 230. I tried everything, even the Morgan angle. He said, "You may be a Bear, but I need this job."

Ford, a defensive end for Cleveland, earned All-NFL honors five times from 1951 to 1955 and played in four Pro Bowls.

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