January 15 is a significant date in American and world history.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the famed Civil Rights Leader, was born on this day. Super Bowl I between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs was played 49 years ago today in Los Angeles. On Jan. 15, 1559, Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England.
For Greek-lettered sororities, today marks the founding of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. It is the first such organization to be founded and established by African-American college women.
In honor of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s birthday, we also like to recognize the other “a.k.a.” who have had a tremendous impact on the sports world after getting their starts at HBCUs.
Richard Kirkland a.k.a. “Pee Wee” – Norfolk State
He then attended Norfolk State University and played alongside future NBA star Bob Dandridge leading the Spartans to the 1968 CIAA championship. Kirkland, who was a street ball legend in New York, was then drafted by the Chicago Bulls in 1969, but turned down the opportunity to deal drugs. It was a decision that eventually landed him in prison.
Now reformed, Kirkland travels the country speaking to youths, founded a life skills camp and even started his own record label.
Steve McNair a.k.a. “Air” – Alcorn State
McNair played at Alcorn State in the early 1990s, winning the 1994 Walter Payton Award as top player in the FCS. He also was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
McNair had a stellar NFL career leading the Tennessee Titans to one Super Bowl appearance in 1999. He was named to the Pro Bowl three times and was named Co- NFL MVP in 2003.
Ed Jones a.k.a. “Too Tall” – Tennessee State
At 6 feet 9 inches, Jones was the destructive member of “Doomsday Defense” of the Dallas Cowboys of the 1970s. Jones was a three-time Pro Bowl player for the Cowboys and a Super Bowl champion.
Bob Hayes a.k.a. “Bullet”- Florida A&M
Hayes was a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and nicknamed the “World’s Fastest Human” Florida A&M, a two-time Olympic Gold medalist and the “World’s Fastest Human before making the transition into the NFL. Hayes was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2009.
Ronald Murray a.k.a. “Flip” – Shaw
On a cold November Minnesota night, in his fifth NBA career start during the 2003-04 season, the legend of Ronald “Flip” Murray grew.
Murray scored 29 points, dished out 8 dimes, made 11 of 12 free-throws and hit a game-winning three-point shot at the buzzer over Sprewell to give the Sonics an 89-87 win.
It was the latest in a string of remarkable performances by the former Division II Player of the Year, who a few months earlier had been involved in a blockbuster trade that sent Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, Murray and a 2003 first-round draft pick from the Milwaukee Bucks to Seattle for Desmond Mason and Gary Payton months earlier.
He scored 24 points on opening night against the Los Angeles Clippers, and then proceeded to tally 22, 24, 24,29 and 20 the next five nights. In fact, Murray scored 20 or more points in 10 of first 11 games, including a career-high 31-point performance against the Miami Heat.
Murray went onto be selected to play in the 2004 Rookie Challenge scoring 25 points and recording 10 assists for the sophomore team.
David Jones a.k.a. “Deacon”- Mississippi Valley State
Jones specialized in quarterback sacks, a term which he coined. Nicknamed “the Secretary of Defense, ” Jones is considered one of the greatest defensive players ever. The Los Angeles Times called Jones “Most Valuable Ram of All Time,” and former Redskins head coach George Allen called him the “Greatest Defensive End of Modern Football.” Jones was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Walter Payton a.k.a “Sweetness” Jackson State
Payton is arguably the best running back of all time depending on who you ask. Payton retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher with 16,726 rushing yards before being surpassed by Emmitt Smith. The 1985 Bears have been revered as one of the greatest teams in NFL history after a 46-10 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Payton was their leading rusher during the game although he didn’t score a touchdown that night in New Orleans.
Jerry Rice a.k.a. – “World” – Mississippi Valley State
He acquired the nickname “World” at Mississippi Valley State University because there wasn’t a ball in the world he couldn’t catch thrown by quarterback Willie Totten. Rice would head to the NFL, where he would be regarded as the greatest football player of all-time in a career that spanned the San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks and brief stint with the Denver Broncos.