TIME OUT: Demopolis pioneer, Emanuel Zanders

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2007

In my continued search for local African-American sports heroes, I have come across the first African-American from Demopolis to play in the National Football League.

Emanuel Zanders graduated from U.S. Jones in 1969, which was the segregated high school for the black students in the area. The Demopolis school systems integrated in the early seventies.

The 6-1, 251lbs, offensive guard went on to play eight seasons in the NFL (99 games). The first seven was with the New Orleans Saints (1974-1980). He closed out his career with the Chicago Bears (1981).

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Zanders is a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame 25 Years All-Time Team. He was a Saints captain from 1976-1979. In 1979 he was voted as the Saints Offensive Lineman of the Year. Other honors Zanders received in his professional career was the Soulful Saints, Inc. Offensive Player of the Year, 1978 and the National Sports Foundation Offensive Player of the Year, 1980.

It was with Chicago that Zanders earned the distinction of being the only player to block for the late great Hall of Famer Walter Payton both in college and in the pros. He also recorded a pass reception while with the Bears, as well.

Zanders played college football at Jackson State (Jackson, Miss.). He was JSU’s most outstanding freshman in 1969. He earned the All-Southwestern Athletic Conference Honorable mention in 1971 and all-SWAC honors in 1972, as well as All-NAIA that year.

Will at JSU, in addition to his letters in football, he also earned letters in track and field.

The four-year letterman and member of Jackson States’ &8216;J’ Club also garnered an Outstanding College Athletes of America honor in 1972.

He still has close ties to his alma mater and contributes to the Faith Fund, the Capital City Classic Fundraising drive, and participates in the capital City Classic Golf Tournament.

James Gilmore is the sports editor of The Demopolis Times. He can be reached by e-mail to james.gilmore@demopolistimes.com.