Raye of Light
When Jimmy Raye arrived at Michigan State University in 1964, he did more than just enrolled in a university hundreds of miles from his native Fayetteville, N.C.: he was part of a groundbreaking movement that changed college football forever.
His story, as well as his Spartan teammates and coach Duffy Daugherty, is told in Raye of Light: the first book to fully explain Duffy Daugherty’s Underground Railroad and its impact on college football. History has not accorded Daugherty, Raye, and the Spartans proper credit for their roles in the integration of college football. Too many view Daugherty as recruiting a couple of All-American players from the South, winning a bunch of games with his 1965-66 teams and then having it all come to an end.
But that ignores the history made by Raye and the Spartans. In his junior season in 1966, Raye was Michigan State’s first black starting quarterback and the first black quarterback from the South to win a national title. The Michigan State team with a progressive head coach, a pioneer black quarterback, and the first fully integrated roster in college football is the subject of this engrossing new book by award-winning author Tom Shanahan.
In Raye of Light, Shanahan tells the story of how Daugherty integrated his Spartan teams in a time when leading college programs like the University of Alabama were still segregated, when it was unusual to see black athletes at skill positions like quarterback, and when choices for outstanding Southern black athletes were either traditionally black colleges or northern college opening their doors to nationwide recruits.
It’s been 50 years since Raye and his teammates made history, and issues of race still reverberate in college and pro football, both on the playing field and on coaching staffs. One need only to reflect on the ugly comments on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling to realize we are not living in a post-racial society, making the inspiring tale of Raye, Bubba Smith, Duffy Daughtery and the rest of the 1965-1966 Michigan State Spartans even more relevant.
Bubba Smith is the most famous of Duffy Daugherty’s Underground Railroad passengers," but Jimmy Raye was the most socially significant. He was a pioneer black college quarterback, a pioneer black college assistant coach, a pioneer black NFL assistant coach and one of the first black coordinators in the NFL in 1983 as the Los Angeles Rams’ offensive coordinator.
My journey through the National Football League culminated with coaching the Indianapolis Colts to a victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. The Bears were coached by Lovie Smith, another African-American coach, who had started his NFL career coaching for me in Tampa. I was proud to have helped Lovie, but as I walked up to the victory podium after the game, I couldn’t help but think of how many people had helped me along the way. One of those people I wanted to personally thank for opening doors was Jimmy Raye. This book tells how some of those doors got pushed open. I’m sure you will enjoy reading about the journey!
Hall of Fame Coach TONY DUNGY