When Wilbert Montgomery earned his Super Bowl XLVII ring as running-backs coach for the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, he was no stranger to glory. In Philadelphia and elsewhere his legacy still looms large. Montgomery was the halfback whose touchdown on the second play from scrimmage and total 194 yards against a stout Cowboy defense helped spur the Eagles to the 1981 NFC title and Super Bowl XV. But perhaps even more enduring should be the story of how this shy but courageous athlete broke down barriers throughout his life, even before the his time in the NFL. Escaping an oppressive and impoverished environment in his home state of Mississippi in the early 1970s, he became one of the first African Americans to play for what was then Abilene Christian College, after its all-white coaching staff lured him away from the gridiron at historically black Jackson State College. Although leading ACC to a 1973 national title would help catapult Montgomery to a remarkable pro career, no one before has illuminated the complex interplay of race relations, sports, and religion in Montgomery's heroic accomplishments in West Texas and beyond.
Edward J. Robinson teaches history and Bible at Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, while serving as the director of the Center for Student Success. He is the author of several other books, including Show Us How You Do It: Marshall Keeble and the Rise of Black Churches of Christ in the Lone Star State.