The Pro Football Hall of Fame released a new episode of The Mission podcast ahead of this weekend's Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic, which will be played between Central State University and Winston-Salem State University and will air live on NFL Network at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 4.
On this special edition of the podcast, host Jamir Howerton provided an exclusive interview with Central State University alum and 2019 inductee to the Black College Football's Hall of Fame, Hugh Douglas.
In an interview that ran just over 30 minutes, Douglas spoke on the impact for black student-athletes to open up their season at the Classic in Canton, Ohio and reflected on his greatest memories from HBCU Classics and Homecomings of years past.
"This is football mecca. This is the home of professional football," Douglas said regarding Canton. "And to have the HBCU Hall of Fame there. And recognizing that a lot of these great players that played at these HBCUs that are actual Hall of Famers helped pave the way in the NFL. You talk about guys like Walter Payton, Jerry Rice, Shannon Sharpe -- guys like that, man.
"There's some good players that come from HBCUs. And now the NFL is starting to recognize that. They acknowledge the fact that they were some of the foundational guys that helped start the NFL. It's just a beautiful thing to be in a class or be enshrined with some of those names I just mentioned. Man, it's one of the absolute greatest feelings in the world."
Douglas went on to describe the atmosphere at events like the one being held this weekend. Between the bands, dancers and cultural interpretations of different music, witnessing either a Classic, a Homecoming or both is something Douglas considers a must on everyone's to-do list.
"If you're lucky enough to be in one of the illustrious Divine Nine Greek sororities or fraternities, you're gonna always get a plate somewhere," Douglas said. "Somebody's gonna always give you a plate. And you're gonna always feel at home. That's what I remember about Homecoming going anywhere. Anybody's Homecoming that I've ever been to. Or anybody's Classic that I've ever been to. It's always been a family atmosphere."
His HBCU roots at Central State from 1992-1994 bore Douglas a fruitful 10-year NFL career spent mostly between the Jets and Eagles -- one that included an Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award, 80 sacks, three Pro Bowls, one first-team All-Pro season and an impending induction into the Eagles Hall of Fame.
Douglas is scheduled to be enshrined in Philly's Hall of Fame alongside fellow pass rusher Trent Cole over Thanksgiving weekend on Sunday, Nov. 27.
"I just hope I don't cry," Douglas told Howerton. "'Cause I know when I get in that stadium, you think about the memories you had as a Philadelphia Eagle. You think about everything, and then you're thinking about Reggie White, you're thinking about Clyde Simmons, Jerome Brown, the guys that came before you. And the fact that you're going in with a guy, Trent Cole, that you saw develop. ... To go in with him and to know that we have that history, that's gonna be a lot. So, I'm just gonna be like, 'Oh no, you can't be here crying, dog, that ain't cool.'"
What's next to come for Douglas after taking in another Black College Football HOF Classic in September and being honored at the Eagles Hall of Fame ceremony in November? The beloved defensive end may have earned himself a future key to the city with his take on the infamous snowball-pelting incident of Ol' Saint Nick in 1968.
"Anytime anybody brings that up, I'm like, 'What was Santa Claus doing to get the snowballs thrown at him?' He must've had it coming, you know? He must not have been on his job."
For more information on the 2022 Black College Hall of Fame Classic and the week's events, click here.