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Virginia Union names football field after Clover native Lanier

South Boston News
Willie Lanier / April 16, 2020
In what has been described as the first phase of a multiphase renovation project, Virginia Union University will name its football field after Clover native and NFL Hall of Famer Willie Lanier.

Lanier, who attended Morgan State College in Baltimore after graduating from Maggie Walker High School in Richmond, would go on to stardom in the NFL after being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in round two of the 1967 NFL Draft — the same year he graduated with a business administration degree.

Lanier said his decision to attend Morgan State was not based on wanting to have a football career but a quality education. Morgan State didn’t even have a scholarship they could offer him — but he accepted the challenge of taking the entrance exam, scored high marks, and went on to earn a scholarship.

When Lanier, a member of the Halifax County Sports Hall of Fame, joined the Chiefs he won the job of middle linebacker. The position was one that didn’t see many African-American athletes at the time due to the fact that some coaches and team owners didn’t think a black man was smart enough to play the position.

Lanier and Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt helped to change that misguided thought. Lanier would go on to dominate at the position, winning Super Bowl IV over the Minnesota Vikings in a game that highlighted his immense skills and intelligence for the game. As a player, Lanier had a major role in reshaping perceptions about the black athlete during a period of change in the history of American sports.

Lanier’s work in promoting quality education and opportunities for all people has been evident since attending high school, and his support of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) has been unwavering.

It was for these reasons VUU’s Athletic Director Joe Taylor asked Lanier to come onboard. Taylor — former football coach of the VUU Panthers — said the impact of Lanier’s name on the stadium will have positive results, for those attending games and for the community at large.

Lanier’s ties with Hovey Field go back to when he was a student at Maggie Walker. The high school held their home games at the stadium, which can hold 10,000.

The Willie Lanier Field-Hovey Stadium will be constructed with artificial turf. Projected to cost $1.1 million, the field is currently on scheduled to be completed by the beginning of college football season this year.

During Lanier’s NFL career from 1967-77 he earned several awards. He was NFL Man of the Year, 1972; Linebacker of the Year, NFL Player’s Association, 1970-75; Chiefs’ Super Bowl IV, Defensive Star; All AFL/AFC, seven times; played in two AFL All Star Games; six Pro Bowls; elected to Kansas City Chiefs, Hall of Fame, 1985; Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1986; Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, 1986; NFL 75th Anniversary Team, 1995; and Virginian of the Year, 1986.

After his NFL career, the now 74-year-old Lanier settled in his hometown of Richmond where he continues to be a force in the business and education communities.

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