A Tribute To A Great Team

By BASN Wire Services
Updated: June 7, 2009

NASHVILLE — The John Merritt Classic Committee has announced that the 1982 Tennessee State University football squad will be honored at the eleventh annual Classic in Nashville on September 5, 2009.

The team finished the regular season with an unbeaten 9-0-1 record, and advanced to the semi-final round of the NCAA I-AA playoffs.

The 2009 John Merritt Classic will pit the Tennessee State University “Tigers” against the Alabama A&M University “Bulldogs” at LP Field, home of the Tennessee Titans. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

Seven of the 1982 “Big Blue” Tigers garnered All-American honors. Notable players from that team include defensive end Richard Dent (Super Bowl XX MVP), wide receivers Mike Jones and Golden Tate, running back Larry Kinnebrew and quarterbacks Kenneth Biggles and Brian Ransom.

The John Merritt Classic, first played in 1999, honors the legendary TSU football coach who led the Tigers from 1963-83. During those 21 seasons, “Big John” won four undisputed national championships among historically black colleges ranked by the Sheridan Poll, compiled a lifetime record of 172-33-1.

Merritt built a powerful program that produced NFL stars like Richard Dent (Chicago Bears), “Jefferson Street:” Joe Gilliam (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ed “Too Tall” Jones (Dallas Cowboys), Claude Humphrey (Philadelphia Eagles) and many others.

The JMC, the only football “Classic” solely hosted by an NCAA institution, is intended to allow Tennessee State to raise funds for scholarships and other related needs for TSU student-athletes. The Classic also provides an opportunity for community outreach with its weekend of activities.