No member of the 1985 Chicago Bears had more reason to Super Bowl Shuffle after XX than Richard Dent. Before the star end of the greatest defense in NFL history made a splash in the pros, however, Richard Dent was a “skinny” kid from a Div. I-AA, HBCU program.
Dent represents No. 95 on the CFB Huddle College Football Countdown 2016.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL COUNTDOWN: NO. 95 RICHARD DENT, DE, TENNESSEE STATE
Despite his middling scouting report and eighth-round selection in the 1983 NFL draft, Richard Dent taking so seamlessly to the pro game makes sense. His prior experiences looked an awful lot like his NFL tenure.
Dent donned the same No. 95 as a Tennessee State Tiger he wore as a Chicago Bear. His presence on the TSU defense had similar impact to the team’s success as Dent’s role on his NFL roster. The 1982 Tennessee State Tigers went 9-0-1 in the regular season and reached the Div. I-AA Playoff semifinals, en route to the Black College National Championship.
Dent’s transitioned from playing for one coaching legend — longtime TSU head coach John A. Merritt — to another in Chicago’s Mike Ditka. Presumably one key difference, however, is Merritt never called Dent by the wrong name.
Former Bears teammate Dan Hampton told ESPN.com in 2011:
“Even though he was an eighth-round pick, he always had an image of himself as a big-time player and he felt he had to prove it. Even when he was the MVP of the Super Bowl, Ditka was calling him ‘Robert’ and all that. It was like nobody gave him his due, and I hate to say it, but now he gets the last laugh.”
Credit Ditka indirectly for adding to the chip on Dent’s shoulder, which fueled his rise from Atlanta’s J.C. Murphy High School to Canton. But Dent credited Joe Gilliam, Tennessee State’s former defensive coordinator, for helping guide Dent down the right path.
Gilliam’s guidance helped Richard Dent transform from an out-of-place offensive lineman into a devastating force at defensive end.
“He was just a player that was hungry to be the best on our team, and obviously it showed in the games that we played in,” said Dent’s former teammate and current Tennessee State offensive coordinator Mike Jones, speaking to Nashville City Paper in 2011.
That was the year Dent finally had his name called for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Four years later, he joined the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
A call from the College Football Hall of Fame is now in order to round out the fitting trifecta for Dent’s stellar career.