Doug Williams endured some painful blindside hits as an NFL quarterback, but he embraced a recent one when he was informed that a certain foundation had endowed a scholarship in his name at his alma mater, Grambling State University.
"When I asked who did this, I was told the donor wished it to be anonymous," said Williams, a senior vice president for the Washington Football Team.
"Ha, you know I have my connections at Grambling. I made a phone call and found out it was Peyton Manning's foundation and it was endowing a half-dozen scholarships at historically Black colleges and universities [HBCUs]. Peyton is a Louisiana boy. I know he's given to a lot of wonderful causes without publicity, but this was a most pleasant surprise for me."
Manning's Peyback Foundation, which was founded in 1999 by Peyton and his wife, Ashley, has endowed six scholarships at four HBCU schools in his home state of Louisiana and two in Tennessee, where he played collegiately at the University of Tennessee.
Williams, the first Black quarterback to ever win a Super Bowl, has his name on the Grambling endowment at the request of the Peyback Foundation.
Harold Carmichael, a former Philadelphia Eagles receiver and 2020 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, also was named on an identical endowment at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Wilma Rudolph, a sprinter who was the first woman to ever win three gold medals in the Olympics in 1960, has her named attached to an endowed scholarship at Tennessee State, her alma mater. Rudolph died from cancer in 1994.
The other three HBCU endowed namesakes are not athletically renowned, but are no strangers to their historical contributions:
• Fisk University (Nashville, Tennessee) for the late Dr. Reavis L. Mitchell Jr., a 40-year history professor who was frequently consulted on African American heritage and often cited in publications and documentaries.
• Xavier University of Louisiana (in New Orleans) for Dr. Norman Francis, the school's president since 1968 who received a presidential medal of freedom in 2006 for his efforts planning the recovery and rebuilding of New Orleans and surrounding areas after Hurricane Katrina.
• Dillard University in New Orleans, for Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund since 2004 and a former university president.
When contacted, Manning declined to speak about his personal involvement but sent this message: "The Peyback Foundation is honored to partner with these six colleges to honor distinguished Alumni and staff members, and to help college students at these schools now and many years to come. Really, for perpetuity."
Williams said he believes Manning's cause deserves a spotlight, saying: "I think Peyton needs to be recognized so we can expand the circle of potential donors out there for a great cause."
Carmichael added: "I feel the same as Doug when it comes to what Peyton's foundation is doing with HBCUs. It's really an honor to have my name on that scholarship. I go back a long time with Archie, his dad. We played in a Pro Bowl together. I know this is not necessarily an athletic scholarship -- HBCUs are much more than that -- but when I played at Southern, all I got was $14 a month for laundry and there were times when even that money missed payments. An endowed scholarship with my name attached? I am really humbled and blessed."