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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The professor of defense

Pellom McDaniels 06G 07PhD is a big man.
You need to be to play seven years in the National Football League, and McDaniels, a defensive end and linebacker who played with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993-98 before closing out his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1999, retains every ounce of his athleticism and gravitas 10 years after he retired.

McDaniels, who earned master's and doctoral degrees in American studies at Emory when his playing days were over, was the special guest at the March 26 panel discussion, Changing the Game: Race and Sports at Emory and Beyond. The panel was presented by Emory's Transforming Community Project and co-sponsored by the Caucus of Emory Black Alumni (CEBA) an interest group of the EAA.

An audiofile of the discussion was recently uploaded to the EAA's Alumni Academy album on iTunesU and is available for free download.

McDaniels, who played collegiately at Oregon State, now lives in Kansas City and is an assistant professor of history and American studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Emory, of course, still doesn't have a football team, but if we wanted one, McDaniels, who is still in great shape, is a sure starter.

Joining McDaniels on the all-pro Race and Sports panel were Department of Athletics staff Tim Downes, Clyde Partin Sr. Director of Athletics, and women's basketball coach Christy Thomaskutty; student-athletes Jason Campbell 11C (men's indoor and outdoor track) and Amelia McCall 11C (volleyball), and as a special guest Lloyd Winston, first coach of Emory's men's basketball team as well as the first African American coach at Emory in any sport. Emory Alumni Board (EAB) member Amri Johnson 96PH served as moderator.

Each tells an intriguing story. Winston, now a resident of St. Louis, was a trailblazer without ever intending to be, and his wry recollections of the past and thought-provoking questions about the future of Race and Sports were among the discussion's highlights.

Campbell and McCall offered the enlightening perspectives of student-athletes of color who have to negotiate the pressures of succeeding on the track (or court) and in the classroom every day. And Downes and Thomaskutty, student-athletes themselves in their collegiate days, discussed the complicated world of administration, coaching, and how to put together winning programs in a society that doesn't always offer the easiest playing field.

And holding it all together was McDaniels, who presented some of his academic research while still remaining accessible. For more than a half hour after the panel was complete he was still shaking hands with guests and laughing with students, staff and alumni alike. None of whom apparently were quarterbacks.

--Eric Rangus, director of communications, EAA

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