Out in the powdered clay dust of north central Louisiana, in one of the three all-Negro towns in America, Coach Eddie G. Robinson of Grambling College is at work, as usual, building professional football players. Already he has sent nearly 50 men into the armies of the AFL and NFL, but this year he may have something new to offer—the first really for-sure Negro pro quarterback. His name is James Harris. He stands 6'4", weighs 210 pounds and passed last season for 1,346 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Grambling has the talent to match last season's 9-1 effort. Flanker Charlie Joiner, who caught 36 Harris passes, is back, along with Fullback Henry Jones and Tackle Richard Lee, who is a mere 6'4" and 265 pounds, which is not outsize for Grambling linemen. Eddie Robinson has always joked that he does not have uniforms to fit men under 250. Some joke. Grambling's best defensive guard this year is John Gee at 265, and the tackles are Clifford Gasper, a 285-pounder, and a still-growing sophomore named Bennie Taylor who is 6'8" and tips—or crushes—the scales at 325. George Muse, a 220-pound linebacker, is a comparative midget, but he may be the best.
In an average year Grambling competes before a total of 75,000 fans. But on September 28 it will nearly equal a whole season's draw when it meets Morgan State, which is defending a 26-game win streak, in 67,000-seat Yankee Stadium. That day alone will make this a big year for Grambling.
...AND THE REST
When some 500 small colleges play in 66 leagues of widely divergent strength, there is little basis for real comparison—even after a season. But here are a few that should rate among the best come December.
Morgan State, with its big date in Yankee Stadium, will defend its undefeated streak with veteran Halfback John Fuqua—one of the CIAA's finest—and untested Quarterback Charles Harrison. Texas at Arlington, which was 10-1 in '67, has 15 starters back, including Quarterback Mike Baylor, who gained 1,561 yards. Northeast Louisiana's Coach Dixie White used to say, "We'll be gracious in defeat and humble in victory. We have been gracious." After two 7-3 seasons, Dixie expects a real humbling year. Ball State of Indiana will again be led by Halfback Amos VanPelt, who got 1,638 yards and 116 points in two years, and that alone is enough to make the Cardinals dangerous. Lamar Tech, Tennessee State, North Dakota University and Prairie View also warrant attention.
Tiny Fairmont State, deep in the West Virginia hills, Waynesburg College, a Presbyterian school in Pennsylvania's mining country, and Eastern Washington are the best of the NAIA, which is made up of schools that play football consistently in the Wistaria mold. Fairmont's excellent quarterback offense could give Harold Duvall an unbeaten season. The major obstacle is Waynesburg, which has Joe Righetti, a 270-lb. All-NAIA middle guard. Eastern Washington's star is Quarterback Bill Diedrick, who has thrown for 1,995 yards and 25 touchdowns. Diedrick symbolizes the heroes of Wistarias everywhere. Says Coach Brent Wooten: "When scouts ask about Bill, and a lot have, we tell them he's the best 5'7" prospect in the world." And he is.