This year will go down in sports history as the year that former Southern University cornerback Aeneas Williams was inducted to both the Pro Football and Southwestern Athletic Conference hall of fames. Williams, who tallied 55 interceptions during his 14-year NFL career, was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame on Thursday night at the Westin Galleria in Houston, Texas.
While the former Arizona Cardinal and St. Louis Ram standout may have had the most name recognition among the inductees, he was one of seven prestigious honorees, joining former Jackson State football player Jeffery Moore, former Alcorn State women’s basketball player Regina Wells-Huston, sports journalist Roscoe Nance, former Prairie View A&M football and track athlete Ray Seals, the late Grambling State football player Ernie Ladd and the late Mississippi Valley State men’s basketball player Alphonso “Al” Ford in the SWAC’s 2014 Hall of Fame Class.
Each inductee had an opportunity to speak for a few minutes, after a brief introduction from Kim Davis, Master of Ceremonies. The Hall of Fame induction was part of 2014 Toyota SWAC Football Championship Weekend. At 3 p.m. on Saturday, Southern will face Alcorn State University at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas for the conference championship.
Aeneas Williams, Southern University
Williams didn’t join the Southern football team until his junior season in 1988, but he made quite an impact in two seasons for the Jaguars. He was a two-time black college All-American and two-time All-SWAC selection who led college football team in interceptions.
“We all stand on the heels of this great SWAC,” Williams said. “Southern University prepared me to be successful on and off the field. Being inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame is a distinguished honor.”
Williams, 46, was the first Cardinals player to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame from the Phoenix, Arizona era.
The eight-time Pro Bowler credited his success to being saved by Jesus Christ during his junior year at Southern, to his parents and his wife, Tracey, a fellow Southern alum.
He retired from the St. Louis Rams in 2004 and became pastor of The Spirit Church in Ferguson, Mo.
Jeffery Moore, Jackson State University
Moore grew up 70 miles northeast of Jackson, Miss. in the small town of Kosciusko, Miss. and dreamed of playing for the Jackson State football team. He joined the Tigers program shortly after the late Walter Payton, an NFL Hall of Famer, finished playing for the Tigers.
“Walter would come back to Jackson and work out with me – he taught me about work ethic,” Moore said. “That gave me a chance to go as far as I did.”
Moore, the Black College Football Player of the Year in 1978, played seven seasons in the NFL – three apiece for Seattle and San Francisco and one for Washington.
“Playing alongside Joe Montana was really cool – he was one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game,” Moore said.
Today, Moore resides in Jackson and works for the State Department of Education’s Office of Special Education.
Regina Wells-Huston, Alcorn State University
Wells-Huston grew up in the basketball hotbed of Chicago, but she established herself as a basketball star at Alcorn State in the mid 1980s.
“From being the youngest of five children on the southside of Chicago to the SWAC Hall of Fame, God is good,” Wells-Huston said. “The SWAC was a competitive conference, and it shaped me into the person I am today.”
Wells-Huston was a two-time all-SWAC selection and the 1983 SWAC rookie of the year. She led the SWAC in assists, steals and free throw percentage for three straight years. She credited former Alcorn coach Shirley Walker and her mother with motivating her to become a great athlete. After her career at Alcorn, Wells-Huston “gave back to the community” by returning home to Chicago where she was a teacher and girls basketball coach.
She is currently an assistant principal at Bronzeville Scholarship Institute in Chicago.
Roscoe Nance, Southwestern Athletic Conference
Nance never scored a basket or threw a touchdown pass, nor did he earn his undergraduate degree from a SWAC school. But his impact on the conference was significant. From 1978-85, Nance covered SWAC sports, primarily for Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State, for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger Newspaper.
“I’m honored to have been placed in a time to have witnessed some of those great moments,” Nance said. “Being inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame is really the highlight of my career. I never expected anything like this.”
An Alabama native, Nance counts the historic 1984 Alcorn State-Mississippi Valley State football game was one of the highlights of his journalism career. MVSU, led by wide receiver Jerry Rice and quarterback Willie Totten lost to Alcorn State and cornerback Ike Holt, 42-38, before a crowd of 65,000 fans in Jackson.
He also remembered the undefeated 1979 Alcorn basketball team upsetting Mississippi State in the NIT and nearly defeating national power Indiana.
After working in Jackson, Nance went on to USA Today from 1985-2007 where he covered the NBA for 15 seasons.
Now retired in Virginia, he serves as president of the SWAC Alumni Association.
Ray Seals, Prairie View A&M University
Seals is best known to Houston area sports fans as the head coach of the Madison High Marlins for 28 years and the 2008 NFL high school coach of the year. One of his best players was University of Texas legend and Heisman Trophy runner-up Vince Young. But Seals had an impressive athletic career of his own, starring in football and track at Prairie View A&M in the early 1960s.
He was part of two National Championship Teams at Prairie View A&M and was drafted by his hometown Houston Oilers in 1964.
“It’s amazing what the SWAC and what Prairie View did for us as a race,” Seals said. “I came through at a time when we couldn’t go to UT or A&M. And we couldn’t afford to go to college without a scholarship. I had a lot of good coaches who taught us how to be good people, too.”
Seals retired from 46 years of coaching in 2011. He still lives in Houston and enjoys traveling, tutoring and playing golf.
Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd, Grambling State University
Ladd won a Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs and an AFL Championship with the San Diego Chargers. But before he established himself as a pro football star, the Louisiana native was a star for Eddie Robinson’s Grambling State Tigers. Ladd went to Grambling on a basketball scholarship, but he quickly switched to football.
He passed away at age 68, in 2007, due to colon cancer, so his daughter, Erica Ladd, accepted the award on his behalf.
During the 1960s, Ladd also became one of the first black professional wrestlers, where he faced Andre The Giant and Bruno Sammartino.
“The SWAC gave my father an opportunity to exhibit and expand his talent and skills,” Erica said. “I’m most honored to accept this prestigious award for a man who ruled his roost with love and loved Grambling State University.”
Alphonso Ford, Mississippi Valley State University
Ford set the MVSU school record for points with 3,165 (29 points per game). The All-American was a four-time All-SWAC selection. He played in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers and Seattle Supersonics, as well as in several professional leagues in Europe before he lost his courageous battle to Leukemia at the age of 32 in 2004.
Ford’s son, Alphonso Ford Jr., attended Thursday’s event and accepted the award on behalf of his father.
“I want to thank God for this momentous occasion,” Ford Jr. said. “It means a lot for me and my family. I’d like to thank MVSU and the SWAC community.”