Beaver Nation knows Pellom McDaniels III from his illustrious football career at Oregon State in the 1980s. But after his playing days came to an end, McDaniel continued his education, started a new career and will soon be honored for his life’s work by the NCAA.
At Oregon State, McDaniels took an introductory course in African American studies that influenced his career after college football and nine years in the NFL.
Much of the class’s content dealt with literature such as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and “Black Boy.” It seemed the stories almost always portrayed African Americans as victims or in a negative light.
“So I was interested in understanding, ‘Why is that so? … Why do we hold onto these stereotypes in ways that become models for behavior if that’s the only representation you see out there publicly?’” McDaniels says.
This question inspired him to obtain master’s and doctoral degrees from Emory University in Atlanta. Today he is an assistant professor of African American Studies at Emory, as well as curator of African American collections in the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) in Emory’s Woodruff Library.
The Silver Anniversary Award recognizes former NCAA athletes for accomplishments in the 25 years after their college careers ended. Oregon State Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker ’63 and basketball All-American Mel Counts ’64 are the other former Beaver athletes to have received the award.
McDaniels, who earned a degree in speech communication from Oregon State in 1990, will accept the award in January at the NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C. He lettered as a defensive lineman for the Beavers in 1987-89 and was a co-captain his senior season. He played in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons from 1991 until 2000.
“This is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition of Pellom,” says Oregon State President Ed Ray. “His lifetime achievements and contributions in college and professional athletics, civic life and in higher education are inspiring and have made a significant difference for many people. He has been a professor and noted author, received numerous grants, has been honored by the National Football League for his charity work and most importantly, he served as a role model for young adults, particularly African Americans. All of Beaver Nation is very proud of Pellom.”
While playing in the NFL, McDaniels launched the Arts for Smarts Foundation and the Fish Out of Water Writing Club charities. He was nominated by the Chiefs for the NFL Man of the Year in 1998, and in 2000 he was recognized with the Most Caring Athlete Award by USA Weekend. In 2009, he received the Kansas City Harmon Humanitarian Award. McDaniels has also served as a board member for a number of foundations and museums, including the Negro League Baseball Museum.
In addition to McDaniels’ responsibilities teaching courses, tending to the collections and organizing symposiums and other events, he has authored a book on 19th-century jockey Isaac Burns Murphy and is editing an anthology of works by artist Benny Andrews.
Still, he says one of his greatest joys is teaching freshmen students.
“They’re so ready to go and they’re not so jaded at this moment,” he says. After attending film screenings and talks by scholars and other high-profile thinkers, “they have a different way of thinking about the world, the whole ‘theory-but-no-practice’ doesn’t apply after that, because they understand how and why these different historians or scholars do what they do, because they’ve gone out and seen the results of their work.”
Of course, they can also see the results of scholarly efforts and well-explored curiosity by simply watching McDaniels, who enjoys talking to student-athletes and encouraging them to think of having engaging, rewarding lives after their playing days. Maybe, he says, adding the NCAA honor to his résumé will help make that point.
“Hopefully it’s something else to put in and have them say, ‘Wow, we can continue doing some things after we’re done playing.’”
Adapted from a story by Kip Carlson in the winter 2015 Oregon Stater. Read the full story here.