WILLIE LANIER FIELD BECOMES A REALITY!
NFL alumnus and Pro Football Hall of Famer Willie Lanier (pictured above wearing tie) was the first African-American middle linebacker in pro football when he began his eventual 11-year career in 1967 with the AFL Chiefs.
The Morgan State graduate was intelligent, creative, and a tremendous team player. He also has a Super Bowl IV championship ring after he helped the Chiefs defense stifle the Vikings 23-7 at the old Tulane Stadium in January 1970.
After his playing days, Lanier became a successful entrepreneur and businessman with the Wheat First Union financial firm in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia. He also was appointed—and still serves—on the NFL Player Care Foundation Board of Directors alongside NFL Alumni representatives.
Lanier attended Maggie L. Walker High School in Richmond. He and his football teammates often played their high school games at nearby Hovey Field, the home stadium of Virginia State University since 1907.
Lanier is not one to forget his roots. Earlier this year, he was approached by Virginia State officials who asked him to help finance a replacement for the aging sod at Hovey Field. Lanier agreed.
“I think this project will give the young men who are going to play on the field a way to understand that there’s no ‘less equal’ qualities at historically black colleges than at any other college in the country,” Lanier says. “The new field will show the ability of what it is to provide for young individuals who can take confidence and pride in where they play and how they are able to perform.”
Lanier helped raise the funding from individuals and sponsors in the Virginia area and late last month bulldozers began removing the grass that had covered the stadium field for decades.
Plans now are for Virginia Union, another Richmond-based HBCU university, to kick off its home opener on October 3 against Shaw University on the new $1.2 million FieldTurf surface named Willie Lanier Field at Hovey Stadium.
We at NFL Alumni congratulate all those in Virginia who financially supported the million-dollar project, especially our lifetime Alumni member and trailblazer Willie Lanier.