Memory lane, with cleats
So much was different about N.C. Central University football 50 years ago.
Even the name of the school was different in 1963, the year when N.C. College at Durham -- that’s what NCCU used to be called -- won the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association football championship.
That team was made up of guys including Elmo “Fat Cutie” McMillian, Johnny “Meat” McGill and Robert “Honey Cut” Murphy. And there was Richard “Tiny” Sligh, who stood 7-feet and became the tallest person to play in the National Football League, said Kyle Serba, NCCU’s associate athletics director for media relations.
Durham’s William Dorsey was on that team, too, and he and at least 30 of his football brothers from NCCU’s 1963 squad are gathering today in conjunction with the university’s homecoming activities.
Space is reserved at the Radisson Hotel Research Triangle Park so the 1963 team can have breakfast during a stroll down memory lane that will include a tribute to fallen Eagles like “Fat Cutie” and “Meat.”
Winston-Salem State University athletics director Bill Hayes is scheduled to lead a candle-lighting ceremony. He was on the 1963 team and years later became NCCU’s director of athletics.
The breakfast gathering will serve as an opportunity to show some love to a couple of legendary figures from Hillside High School, Dorsey said. Artis Plummer and Willie Bradshaw were on Hillside’s 1943 state-championship team that neither lost nor tied a game and yielded nary a point.
Bradshaw played football at NCCU.
The 1963 NCCU team finished with an 8-1 overall record, giving coach Herman Riddick his fifth conference title.
NCCU’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium bears Riddick’s name and will be the site where Dorsey and his buddies from the 1963 team huddle for a special ceremony during the Eagles’ 2 p.m. homecoming game today against Morgan State.
“Obviously, the game of football has changed a lot since the ’60s,” Dorsey said.
But what fortunately has remained the same is the commitment by NCCU’s student-athletes to compete hard both on the football field and in the classroom, Dorsey said.
The 1963 team had four coaches— that’s it, Dorsey said. Today’s Eagles have a head coach plus 10 assistants. Things have changed.
Here’s the thing, though: The talent that Riddick had on the 1963 team was just as good as what NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster is working with now, Dorsey said.
“We had the athleticism, and we had the drive to excellence, and I believe the team over there now has the same mindset,” Dorsey said.
“Actually, we were probably better,” Hayes said.
Back in the day when America was grappling with integration, historically black schools such as NCCU were getting the lion’s share of top black athletes. But integration gave black athletes more options and watered down the talent pool at HBCUs, said Hayes, a Hillside graduate.
The one blemish on the 1963 team’s record was a 15-14 homecoming loss to Virginia Union. It was a bitter setback, but the CIAA championship made things sweeter, Dorsey said.
The 1963 team was inducted into the NCCU Alex M. Rivera Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.
NCCU also won the CIAA title in 1961.
N.C. College at Durham became NCCU in 1969.