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Inside Hotlanta and the SIAC

Hal LamarBy Hal Lamar

Former Morris Brown gridder needs kidney


In the mid 1970s, Morris Brown College's Willie Blackwell was arguably one of the most feared defensive ends in college football. The Louisiana native dared running backs to attempt to turn his jealously guarded corner. We who cover HBCU football would kid that offensive opponents would ask Blackwell "permission" to come around to his side.

Naturally he said no.

Blackwell was also a leader and a God-fearing man who seemingly never met a stranger and would sacrifice the shirt on his back to help youngsters and adults find a better way. Now, Brother Blackwell needs us to help him a better a big way.

Blackwell needs a kidney.willie blackwell needs a kidney

Now residing with wife and family in the city of McDonough, Georgia, Blackwell lost one kidney in 1999 through cancer which he told Inside immediately changed his lifestyle. "I gave up red meat, sweets, just completely changed my way of eating," he said Because of that, he has dodged having to submit to weekly dialysis treatments. Still, his surviving kidney operates at 15% capacity.

The fierce competitor in his days on the gridiron but then and now an easygoing sort with a caring spirit who gives far more than he ever receives nor expects,was finally talked into "wagging his own tail" for a change and taking his case for transplant to the public. Blackwell, who spent several years playing pro football in the 70s and 80s through professional stints with the Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, immersed himself in the ministry and social activities but was relcutant to reach out to benefit himself.

Thankfully, his story got immediate press, first from the Henry County Times. "After that, I heard from WXIA -TV, Fox 5 Atlanta (WAGA-TV) the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and received an extensive interview from WVEE (V-103)radio," he said. "Even though I didn't stay in the NFL long enough to qualify for a pension, I get a lot of help and support through the league's players association," Several of his former teammates at Morris Brown and the NFL have also reached out, including Ezra Johnson, a first round pick in the 1977 NFL draft who played defensive end for the Wolverines. With Blackwell playing a similar position at the other end of the defensive line, they were often kiddingly referred by sportswriters (including yours truly) as the "bookend twins."

Blackwell said response has been encouraging and on at least one occasion, received an offer from a potential donor. Unfortunately, special care has to be taken since not every kidney can properly fit a recepient.

Blackwell is optimistic and prayerful that a perfect donor will be found.

If you are reading these words and believe you might make a good donor, regardless of your current location, get in touch with Blackwell by emailing him at . You can also get in touch with his nephrologist Dr Michael Katz or hosptial coordinator Ms. Leanne Whitehead at 404-605-4605
Also check out his V-103 interview with air personality JR at :

allen greg thompsonThompsonNOTE: Notwithsanding my close friendship with Brother Blackwell having covered his gridiron exploits the entire time he was at Morris Brown, I can equate his need for a kidney. In 2012, after 10 years on the dialysis machine (something brother Blackwell has thankfully avoided so far), I received a kidney and it has made a difference. That's why I jumped on his need right away. And I want to thank Gracie Staples, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who brought this to my attention via one of her recent columns.

XTRA POINTS: Speaking of Morris Brown, I knew their one time head football coach and athletic director Greg Thompson could not/would not leave HBCU sports alone. He has signed on as AD at Columbia, South Carolina's Allen University. I've known Greg since the two of us graduated from rival high schools here in the ATL in 1968. I know how old he us and will become next year.

Most folks figure we need to retire and "make way for the young folks." But the love of football for him, as is broadcasting and writing for humble self was something I guess we couldn't just turn away from. I got to talk with Ted Keaton, Allen's head football coach starting his second season with the Yellow Jackets and he is as excited as he he is patient about building a program there at the school just across the street from rival Benedict. With these two old pros working together, it's gonna be on for some years in South Carolina's capitol city. By the bye, the talk is already starting about a rival match between Benedict and Allen.

The future looks bright........


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