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Stallworth, Blount part of special tribute

Growing up in Valdosta, Georgia in the late 1960s, Mel Blount never imagined he would be where he is today.

All he wanted was an opportunity, a chance to take his game to the next level after playing college football at Southern.

What he got, was a whole lot more.

Blount and others that made a similar journey were honored before Super Bowl LI in Houston, Texas.

The NFL honored members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, highlighting the impact they have had on the game.

Blount and John Stallworth, who played at Alabama A&M, were among 28 Hall of Famers honored, including 22 living and 6 deceased, as well as two others who have had an impact on the game, as part of the pregame celebration.

"There is no way I could have ever imagined this. No way at all," said Blount. "It's amazing how life, the journey you take in life, leads. I grew up during segregation. The historical black colleges are the only schools that we had a choice to go to. We couldn't have gone to the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech because they wouldn't accept black students.

"It's a tremendous blessing as I look back because I think one of the things you learn so much about who you are as a people and the journey we had to take in this country. To wind up, first of all being a part of four Super Bowls was unthinkable. Then to go on to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and now to have this honor of being recognized in front of the world, it's an incredible honor.

"When you look at the Steelers, we are fortunate to have two guys, John Stallworth and myself, being honored. It's tremendous. I think it sheds a light on the Steelers organization. We are excited about it."

Blount and Stallworth both played on the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams in the 1970s, and were later enshrined into the Hall of Fame. They both understand the significance of the NFL honoring the group, and don't take it for granted.

"It's beyond anything I could have thought about," said Stallworth. "In college you think of things in levels. All through my life I thought what is the next level? I worked hard toward that goal. In college being at the Super Bowl, at the Hall of Fame, being honored was several levels from what I was even thinking about. The dream was to get into a professional camp, to make the team, and then go from there. We have been blessed far beyond anything I could have imagined.

"This is a great recognition of the role black colleges have played in the growth of the National Football League with great players coming in and adding to the popularity of the game. It's saying that talent can come from many different sources. Sometimes we get locked into a particular place, or school or level of school for producing great athletes, thinking that they all come from the higher divisions in football. Not necessarily true. It was not true when Mel and I came out of school. I think it can be for a lot of young folks a motivation that from maybe not so great beginnings you can achieve great things. You can move yourself to a higher level, even to the highest level."

Blount and Stallworth spent most of the week in Houston taking part in Super Bowl LI activities with the rest of the group, including a worship service organized by Blount.

"It's something I believe in," said Blount. "You can't talk about the journey of any African American without incorporating their spirituality, their faith in God. It was such a big part of what gave us strength. It's the same as what I do at the (Mel Blount) Youth Home. I try to plant those seeds in youth boys lives. I thought this was a good opportunity to show what we are about, what we believe in and for us as a group to give thanks."

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