College Football Hall of Fame ‘a long time coming’ for former Alabama linebacker E.J. Junior


(Courtesy of the Paul W. Bryant Museum)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — When it comes to Alabama football, there is not much that Ken Gaddy doesn’t know.

The longtime director of the Paul W. Bryant Museum in Tuscaloosa has made a career out of documenting sports history at the University of Alabama, namely football. However, one player’s recent induction into the College Football Hall of Fame has been especially personal for him.

“E.J. Junior was a favorite of mine,” Gaddy said. “That was the player you wanted to be.”

Junior, who was named as part of the 2020 inductee class last Wednesday, played linebacker for the University of Alabama between 1977 and 1980. During his last year at Alabama, the North Carolina native was named a first-team All-American in 1980 and was a finalist for the Lombardi Award. By 1981, Junior was drafted to play in the NFL, where he spent 12 years playing for teams like Phoenix Cardinals, the Miami Dolphins and the Seattle Seahawks.

Today, Junior is a defensive line coordinator at Delaware State University. Junior, who had been nominated to the Hall five times prior, said that his induction has been a long time coming, but that any reputation he has in football, including his spot in the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, is due to his time at the University of Alabama.

“It’s an honor for me and my teammates,” Junior said during a phone with CBS 42. “They helped make me who I am.”

Rep. Rich Wingo, R-Tuscaloosa, was one of Junior’s teammates in the “the box” with the other linebackers and was part of the 1977 Crimson Tide defense that many today consider one of the best in the school’s history.

“We were very blessed to be part of such a great group of guys,” Wingo said.

For Wingo, Junior represented a type of linebacker that would set the mold for others to follow: a great enough linebacker that could contain the run, but also good enough to force the pass.

“Look at who came after him, like Cornelius Bennett or Derek Thomas,” he said. “They all played that position.”

Junior is part of the 2020 induction class that includes Georgia linebacker and ESPN’s “College Gameday” David Pollack, quarterback Steve McNair and wide receiver Michael Westbrook.

Junior said the induction. which will be held in Atlanta Dec. 8, will be a good birthday present.

“This will definitely be something to remember,” he said.


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