February 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Ben Stevenson

Here is a bit of trivia sure to stump your friends and co-workers: What college football player has had more All-America seasons than any other Hall of Famer? The answer is Tuskegee halfback Ben Stevenson who was a Black College All-America seven times for the Golden Tigers from 1924-1930.

In the 1920’s Golden Age of Sports, “Big Ben” was to Black College football what Babe Ruth was to baseball or Red Grange was to the rest of college football. And while Ruth and Grange are still widely considered the greatest players in their respective sports, so to is Stevenson to Black college football.

Stevenson was discovered by Tuskegee coach Cleve Abbott working on a farm in Liberty, Kansas. When he arrived on campus he was enrolled in what today we would consider a prep school. These students were allowed to participate in athletics in the collegiate level. As such, Stevenson played eight seasons at Tuskegee - Four as a prep athlete and four as a collegian.

The 1923 team went 7-1-1 and then went on to four consecutive undefeated seasons, marred only by three ties. The teams of that era produced a 48-game win streak. In 1928, the squad had a subpar 6-1-4 record, but followed that up with two more undefeated seasons,giving Stevenson a career record of 70-2-9. Along the way he led Tuskegee to six Black College national, titles.

Even by today’s standards, Stevenson had great size (6’2, 210) and speed (9.8 – 100 yard dash). Like Grange, he was famous for his touchdown runs that were often longer than 50 yards. One account credits him with 42 scoring runs of 50 yards or more. Additionally, he was also a prolific drop kicker. On defense he played in the backfield and excelled in making interceptions and returning them for long gains.

In the spring he participated in track. He anchored the sprint relay team and won national meets in the 100 and 200 yard dash, as well as the broad jump.

In the selection of All-time African-American college football teams he was rated ahead of many players who participated at major colleges.

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