Howard University is making its mark on the Black College Pro Football Hall of Fame.
On December 14, the 2024 Hall of Fame class was announced, the 15th since its founding in 2009. Among the 28 finalists were Antoine Bethea (‘06) and Jay “Sky” Walker (‘94), with Bethea being named one of the seven inductees for 2024.
Bethea, a former administration of justice major, played defensive back at Howard from 2002-2005. He was named the inaugural Black College Football Pro Player of the Year by the National Football League Players Association in 2017. At Howard, Bethea earned All Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) honors and a placement on the Urban Radio Network Black College All-American Team.
“Howard taught me how to strive for greatness,” Bethea says. “Regardless of what you have or don’t have, you still have to put the work in to win. Howard also taught me to bet on yourself.”
Bethea was drafted in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts, subsequently winning Super Bowl XLI with the team. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants during his 14-season NFL career, amassing 995 solo tackles, 338 assists, 9.5 sacks, 7 fumble recoveries, 25 interceptions, and 3 Pro Bowl selections.
“It’s a humbling experience to have my name alongside some of the greats not only to play at an HBCU, but [who] helped changed the landscape in the game of football,” Bethea says.
Roscoe’s Lessons Learned at Howard
This class is particularly unique because of James Philip Roscoe (B.S. ‘22), who is also a part of this year’s Black College Hall of Fame roll call – but for an off-field honor instead.
Like Bethea, it was Roscoe’s academic and extracurricular experiences at Howard that gave him his start in professional sports.
Roscoe, a graduate of Howard’s sports management program, is currently serving as the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s James Harris-Doug Williams Fellow. A leisure studies major and political science minor as an undergraduate, Roscoe’s concentration was in sports management within the College of Arts and Sciences.
Roscoe was selected in a competitive application process to serve as just the third Harris-Williams fellow. The fellowship is a paid position within the Pro Football Hall of Fame, named for the two African American pioneers in sport, iconic NFL quarterbacks, and co-founders of the Black College Hall of Fame. This prestigious opportunity is earmarked for a HBCU graduate to work at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and provides a platform for career advancement through participation in a 12-month rotational program, in which fellows are able to experience all departments inside the Hall.
My time at Howard prepared me to take up space and maximize the opportunities that find me.”
“My experience as a fellow has undoubtedly reassured to me that I belong within the sports and entertainment industry,” says Roscoe. “I wouldn’t have been successful in this journey, if it wasn’t for the lessons learned at Howard. From guest speakers to instructors like Professor [Alois] Clemons in the sports management concentration, my time at Howard prepared me to take up space and maximize the opportunities that find me.”
The program develops a portfolio of skills in an effort to present diverse candidates for executive roles within college football and the NFL. The fellowship experience includes learning various aspects of front office management in professional football, including strategic planning, logistics and operations, communications, event planning and management, player relations and program management.
Roscoe is on the team responsible for planning and executing the annual Black College Hall of Fame Classic weekend scheduled for each September where Bethea, along with other members of the 2024 class, will be honored following their formal induction ceremony in June. During his experience so far, Roscoe has written magazine articles, conducted radio interviews, served as the player relations coordinator for the classic weekend, and provided support to the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.
“The Pro Football Hall of Fame started the fellowship because it believes that there is great talent at HBCUs. That talent deserves to have the opportunity to learn at the highest level of sports.” says Adrian Allison, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s chief relationship officer. “The fellows that we have had so far have gone on to do great things in the sports world, and we are proud to continue to help graduates of HBCU realize their dreams in the industry of sports.”
When the finalists were revealed, Roscoe shares he was excited. “This experience is even more rewarding, being able to witness someone from the Howard network being honored,” he says. “All of the finalists are deserving in their own right, but I had my fingers crossed for Bethea and Walker because I’ll always bleed blue."