If you’ve followed Black college football during the mid-1940s through the 1960s, the you know Florida A&M University had one of the best football programs in the nation. During those early years, the Rattlers were under the tutelage of legendary head coach Jake Gaither who put together some outstanding teams.
A new book is coming out on Aug. 15, which chronicles Gaither’s career at FAMU as well as the great history of many of the football teams from several of the country’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The book is titled “Blood, Sweat & Tears: Jake Gaither, Florida A&M and the history of Black College Football written by Derrick E. White (The University of North Carolina Press, $30.00). Gaither may not be a household name to some people who aren’t familiar with his exploits. He’s one of the greatest college football coaches of all time.
He coached 24 years at FAMU. He posted a tremendous 203-36-4 record during his career. The Rattlers captured 18 conference titles and six Black College National Championships.
Gaither coached a lot terrific players. In Blood, Sweat and Tears, one of his early stars was Willie Galimore. He was a brilliant running back for FAMU during the 1950s. Galimore helped the Rattlers win four conference championships and one Black College National Championship. Galimore played from 1953 to 1956 at FAMU. He later played for the Chicago Bears in the NFL. In 1954, he rushed for 1,203 yards becoming the first player to break the 1,000-yard mark.
Bob Hayes was another one of the Gaither’s players. In the book, there’s a photo of Hayes signing his pro contract with the Dallas Cowboys with Gaither and Tex Schramm, who was the president and general manager of the Cowboys in 1964. Hayes was one of best wide receivers in the country during his playing days with the Rattlers. He was picked in the eighth round of the NFL Draft by the Cowboys. In addition to winning a Super Bowl, Hayes won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Gaither also coached Ken Riley who played quarterback at FAMU. He went on to play 14 seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals (1969-1983) as a sensational defensive back. He had 65 career interceptions.
Gaither was more than just a brilliant coach. He did a wonderful job of mentoring his players who succeeded on and off the field. Some of them became doctors, lawyers, teachers and other professional occupations. FAMU provided with an opportunity to play the game, receive a good education and go back to inspired others in their communities.
Gaither set groundwork with this philosophy, which was prevalent among other HBCU coaches like Grambling State’s Eddie Robinson. Speaking of Robinson, the book also mentions great coaches like Eddie Hurt from Morgan State, A.W. “Ace” Mumford from Southern University, John Merritt from Tennessee State and others.
For many college football fans, this is a great book to read as the season approaches.