Leon Lett headlines 2013 NJCAA Football Hall of Fame inductees
September 16, 2013
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The NJCAA announced Monday, the 2013 inductees of the NJCAA Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. This year’s class is made up entirely of players, including Leon Lett (Hinds), John Copeland (Hinds), Bob McMillen (DuPage) and Kevin Jackson (Jones County).
Hinds (Miss.) – DL, 1987-88
Before spending 11 seasons in the NFL building his reputation as one of the league’s premiere defensive tackles, Leon Lett made a name for himself by dominating offensive fronts on Thursday nights in Mississippi.
In two seasons at Hinds, Lett accumulated 141 tackles, 10 sacks, nine pass
breakups and recovered three fumbles. Lett was recognized by his two-year college in 2011 when he was inducted into the Hinds Sports Hall of Fame.
Following his career with the Eagles, Lett transferred to NAIA program Emporia State. Lett was named an NAIA honorable mention All-American in 1989 after recording 83 tackles, five sacks and two blocked field goals. Suffering through knee injuries, Lett missed the first three games of his senior season and was not invited
to a senior All-Star game or the NFL Combine. Despite lacking the acclaim from pro scouts, the Dallas Cowboys selected Lett with their seventh round pick in the 1991 NFL Draft.
Entering the 1992 season in Dallas at 6-foot-6-inches and 300 pounds, Lett’s agility quickly earned him the nickname “The Big Cat”. That year, Lett anchored the Cowboys defensive line that led the league in rush defense. The Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl XXVII, giving Lett his first ring in only his second year in the league. Lett would go on to win two more Super Bowls with the Cowboys and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1994 and 1998. In 2001, Lett signed with the Denver Broncos for the final season of his career. He retired with 361 tackles, 22.5 sacks and seven fumble recoveries.
In 2009, Lett volunteered as an assistant football coach at UNLV while obtaining his bachelor’s degree. After being hired as the defensive tackle coach at Louisiana-Monroe in 2009, Lett made his return to Dallas as the Cowboys assistant defensive line coach in 2011.
Hinds (Miss.) – DL, 1989-90
From Thursday nights in Mississippi to Sundays in Cincinnati, John Copeland put
fear in the eyes of opposing quarterbacks wherever he played.
Arriving at Hinds in 1989, Copeland immediately began garnering the attention of offensive lines in the MACJC. Copeland took his game to a new level as a sophomore, leading the conference in sacks as the Eagles claimed the South
Division title. After spending two seasons in Raymond, Copeland moved on to the Southeastern Conference where he would suit up for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Upon arriving in Tuscaloosa, there was a significant amount of hype built around Copeland who had originally committed to the Tide when he was high school. Paired up with fellow defensive end Eric Curry, the two quickly established themselves as the top defensive ends in the nation. In 1992, Copeland and the Alabama defense ranked first in the country as the Crimson Tide went 13-0 and won the national championship. With 65 tackles and a team-high 10.5 sacks, Copeland was a consensus first-team All-American.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Copeland with the fifth-overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft. Copeland made an immediate impact with 48 tackles and three sacks as a rookie. Copeland would play eight seasons for the Bengals, retiring after the 2000 season with 276 tackles, 24 sacks and nine forced fumbles.
Returning to his home state of Alabama, Copeland is now the defensive coordinator at Tuscaloosa Academy.
DuPage (Ill.) – TE, 1990
Beginning his collegiate football career at DuPage, McMillen would go on to become one of the most renown players in the history of the Arena Football League.
In only one season at tight end with the Chaparrals, McMillen earned NJCAA First-Team All-America honors in 1990. McMillen would move on to NCAA DIII program Benedictine where he was a three-time All-America selection and was named Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference Player of the Year.
In 1995, McMillen made his professional football debut with the Arizona Rattlers at running back. McMillen would go on to play 13 seasons in the AFL with the Rattlers, San Jose SaberCats and Chicago Rush. He was named AFL Running Back of the Year 10 times and won three ArenaBowl championships. McMillen also set single-season AFL records for rushing yards (1,340), touchdowns (32) and rush attempts (279). In 2006, EA Sports featured McMillen on the cover of the “Arena Football: Road to Glory” video game.
After retiring as a player in 2007, McMillen stayed with the Rush as the fullbacks
and linebackers coach and was promoted to head coach in 2010. Recently, McMillen was named 2013 AFL Head Coach of the Year and as well as a member of the 2013 Arena Football Hall of Fame Class.
Jones County (Miss.) – DB, 1993-94
Kevin Jackson spent two seasons in the NJCAA and two seasons in the
Southeastern Conference as one of the nation’s elite defensive backs.
Enrolling at Jones County in 1993, Jackson made an immediate impact during his freshman season. In his sophomore campaign, Jackson was named an NJCAA Second-Team All-American. In two seasons with the Bobcats, Jackson compiled
105 tackles, five interceptions and blocked two field goals.
Following his two years at Jones County, Jackson moved on to Alabama where he earned a starting spot in his first season with the Crimson Tide. Against Georgia, Jackson tied the Alabama single-game record with three interceptions – which still stands today. Recording 72 tackles and leading the SEC with seven interceptions, Jackson was a consensus first-team All-American during his senior season.
Following his collegiate career, Jackson would go on to play three seasons in the Arena Football League for the Tampa Bay Storm and Buffalo Destroyers.
Photos courtesy of Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Rush and Alabama Photography.