By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
For The Birmingham Times
Former Miles College head football coach Billy Joe and Brighton High School alumnus Parnell “Paydirt” Dickinson had sizeable cheering sections Saturday night as they were honored among the six members of the Class of 2017 in the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
The eighth annual induction ceremony, presented by the Atlanta Falcons, was held at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. The two of them accounted for about half of the crowd in attendance.
“I had quite a cheering section, not only from Alabama but Pennsylvania, Florida … all the places that I’ve coached,” Joe said.
Miles College was Joe’s final stop from 2007 to 2010. He had previously coached at Cheyney University (1972-1978), Central State University (1981-1993) and Florida A&M (1994-2004).
For Dickinson, there was a large contingent of supporters from Brighton. The football legend said he couldn’t find words to say how much he appreciated the 100-plus people there for him.
“This is pretty gratifying for an old country boy out of Brighton, Alabama,” he said. “That was not something that I planned. I’ve never been one to harp on statistics. I enjoyed playing. It just happened. I didn’t leave Brighton High School saying I was going to go to college and I was going to make the Hall of Fame. I had aspirations of being good. I never wanted to be on the bench.”
Joe acknowledged being surprised, but pleased that he is now included among the game’s greats.
“My success was not a one-man show,” said Joe, now a resident of Hoover’s Ross Bridge community. “I had a lot of support and a lot help. My family, especially my wife, afforded me the time to exercise my craft, at her expense often times.”
Joe, whose 243 victories places him second in Black College Football behind Grambling’s Eddie Robinson, was a college head coach for 33 seasons. He achieved his greatest success at Central State, where his teams won two NAIA National College Football Championships in 1990 and 1992.
His teams at Florida A&M made various appearances in the Division I-AA (now FCS) playoffs during the 1990s and early 2000s.
In addition, Joe won five straight black college football national championships with Central State University (1986–1990) and one with Florida A&M (1998).
Dickinson played quarterback at Mississippi Valley State from 1972 to 1975 before being the first quarterback taken by the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That was a far cry from the youngster who aspired to be a high selection in pickup games in Brighton.
He said his older brother Charles was always the first name called. “If it was basketball, I was probably the fourth or the fifth (pick). If it was football, I was probably the ninth or the 10th.”
Dickinson, 63, recalled that his mother Rebecca Dickinson didn’t want him to play football but she was the person who sent him back when he had decided to quit during his first high school season.
“You’re gonna finish what you started,” he recalled her saying.
Mathew Dickinson, his father, steered his son to Mississippi Valley State, reminding him of the handshake agreement he made with the coach.
“He said, ‘Let me tell you, son, a man’s word and a handshake is his bond,’” Dickinson recounted. “You’ve already decided where you’re going to school so there ain’t no need going nowhere else.”