The Grambling State Tiger football got an unexpected visit from a former Tiger All-American athlete during the course of Wednesday’s practice. NBA Hall of Fame inductee and current New Orleans Hornet executive Willis Reed came to campus to watch the football team during the latter part of the team’s workout.
President Horace A. Judson, Director of Athletics Willie Jeffries and Men’s Basketball Head Coach Larry Wright were also in attendance during the team’s afternoon workout.
At the conclusion of practice, Reed spoke to the football players about the importance of making the most of their time while at Grambling as he reflected on his own experiences of when he was a student at the university.
Reed was rather enthusiastic about having the opportunity to speak to the team, considering that he had originally came to just watch the team practice. “I did not know that I was going to do this. I had actually come to watch Coach Spears work with this team and just see the football team,” Reed said. “I hope that some of the things that I said to the players would make an impression on them.”
“It is that they only have one chance and they need to do it right the first time, leave it all here and be proud of what you have done after it is all over because there is no second chance in the terms of the number of games that they are going to play in the four years that they are here.”
Dr. Judson, Jeffries and Coach Wright also spoke to the team as they shared their own personal experiences in the field of play. At the conclusion of each of the speakers? speeches the team gave them a resounding round of applause.
Head Football Coach Melvin Spears was very pleased about Reed’s visit with the football team. “This is what Grambling is all about, when you have the Willis Reed, the Doug Williams and Ernie Ladd. When you are at Grambling, anything may happen and anybody might show up,” Spears said.
“The one thing that is great about this whole process is that those guys are Gramblinites and when you have outstanding Gramblinites who can come and talk about their experiences and give the guys some encouragement, it says what Grambling is all about — Everybody is Somebody.”
GSU’s athletics and advancement departments didn’t just donate photographs of former NBA and Grambling great Willis Reed, along with his college coach Fred Hobdy, to the Chili’s in Ruston.
Annual Fund Director & Major Gifts Officer, Ullysses Tucker, Jr. surprised the locals by bringing Reed himself — along with Hobdy’s widow, Mary — along with Associate Director of Development Catherine Nicholson and Head Basketball Coach Larry Wright for the presentation and hosted a lunch.
“I think that it was great to get to meet the man himself,” Chili’s Managing Partner Glen Lewellyan. “It was just great to get to meet him.”
Reed played on Hobdy’s 1961 NAIA national championship team then won two NBA titles with the New York Knicks on his way to the Hall of Fame. His photo joins those of Robinson and former defensive lineman Willie Davis, Grambling’s first pro football Hall of Famer.
“I think to be on that wall along with Coach Hobdy, Coach Rob (Eddie Robinson) and Willie Davis is a tremendous thing,” said Reed.
“Willie Davis is one the most famous football players as Willis Reed is one of the most famous basketball players who played at Grambling.”
Reed was in town to meet with university officials about a proposed endowed professorship in honor of Hobdy, initiated by Tucker and current Grambling State University basketball coach, Larry Wright, a member of the Washington Bullets Championship team in 1978.
Reed has agreed to make the lead gift to establish the Fred Hobdy Endowed Professorships in Education at his alma mater along with Mary Hobdy and friends.
“Though we are in the business of fundraising for the institution, sometimes, it’s not about the solicitation process, but more about relationships and bringing people together,” said Tucker. “Coach Wright mentioned the idea to me, then I mentioned it to my Associate Director of Development (Catherine Nicholson), a friend of Mrs. Hobdy, and she insisted that I get Willis involved because of his admiration for Coach Hobdy. There is some very positive energy around this project and we are going to definitely get it done.”
The endowment presents the family with a opportunity to take advantage of state matching funds and recruit outstanding faculty members.
The Louisiana Education Quality Support Fund, established by the State of Louisiana, will match the $60,000 raised by Reed and Hobdy with state funds of $40,000 to create a $100,000 professorship in his honor. “Both men are Grambling legends,” said Coach Wright.
The goal is to raise the $60,000 by February of 2006 and present the check to the university in his honor at the annual endowment ceremony.
Income from the endowed professorship will be used to supplement faculty salaries and to provide faculty support such as equipment and supplies needed for research. It will be professionally manage.
“It is a thrilling moment to walk in Chili’s and to see my late husband there because of the contributions that he has made to Grambling State University and the love that he had for the university,” said Mary Hobdy, who still lives in Grambling and did not know that her husband’s picture had been mounted at Chili’s.
“To see him up there with the other legends gave me a great thrill that I can not wait to share with my family.”