|COACH OREE BANKS|
It also is an award he helped create.
“It was a great honor,” Banks said. “I felt that it was one of the key accomplishments in my life, making sure that these people are recognized.”
Since 2004, the award has honored legends like Hampton’s Charles Williams, the first African-American member of the AFCA, Florida A&M’s Jake Gaither and Grambling State’s Eddie Robinson. The seeds of the award were planted in 2001 and 2002, when Banks approached college football coaches, and then approached AFCA executive director Grant Teaff, about the need to recognize the contributions and achievements of HBCU coaches from 1920-80.
The AFCA Trailblazer Award was created to honor early leaders in the football coaching profession who coached at historically black colleges and universities. Past Trailblazer Award winners include Charles Williams of Hampton (2004), Cleve Abbott of Tuskegee (2005), Arnett Mumford of Southern (2006), Billy Nicks of Prairie View A&M (2007), Alonzo “Jake” Gaither of Florida A&M (2008), Fred “Pops” Long of Wiley (2009), Harry R. “Big Jeff” Jefferson of Bluefield State (2010), Edward P. Hurt of Morgan State (2011), Vernon “Skip” McCain of Maryland-Eastern Shore (2012), Marino Casem of Alcorn State (2013), Gideon Smith of Hampton (2014) and Eddie Robinson of Grambling State (2015). The award is given each year to a person that coached in a particular decade ranging from 1920-1970. This year’s winner coached from 1960 to 1970.