Former Alcorn State offensive lineman Dennis Thomas and former Mississippi State head coach Sylvester Croom are being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Announced on Monday, Thomas and Croom are part of a stacked class that features 18 First Team All-Americans and three standout coaches.
Thomas was a two-time Pittsburgh Courier All-American during his time with the Braves. He was also named the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Offensive Player of the Year in 1973—an award he beat out Jackson State’s Walter Payton for.
After his playing career, Thomas returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Under head coach Marino Casem, he won three SWAC championships (1976, 1979, and 1984), giving him four total as he also won one in 1970 as a player.
From 1986-1988, Thomas was the head coach at South Carolina State. He then left Orangeburg to become the director of athletics at Hampton University, a position he held for 12 years.
Since 2001, Thomas has served as commissioner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), where he played an instrumental role in the creation of the Celebration Bowl.
Croom was the starting center for an Alabama Crimson Tide team that lost just once in three years. Three Southeastern Conference (SEC) championships and one wire service college national championship later, the AFCA All-American signed with the New Orleans Saints.
Croom played one year in the Big Easy before turning in the cleats for a clipboard, returning to his alma mater as a graduate assistant in 1976.
After just one year, he was promoted to linebackers coach. In 1986, Croom jumped to the NFL, where he coached running backs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, and San Diego Chargers. From 2001-2003, he served as the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions.
2004 was when Croom returned to the college ranks. This time as the head coach for Mississippi State, making him the first African-American head coach in SEC history.
While in Starkville, Croom’s teams compiled a 21-38 overall record with his best season coming in 2007 as the Bulldogs defeated both Alabama and Ole Miss on their way to a Liberty Bowl victory over the University of Central Florida. That year, he was voted SEC Coach of the Year.
Once his tenure with Mississippi State ended in 2008, Croom coached for the St. Louis Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tennessee Titans before retiring in 2018 after 40 years of coaching.
Both Thomas and Croom have made a massive impact on the game, and they’re now being rewarded with one of the highest honors in all of football. View the full 2022 College Football Hall of Fame Class here.