One of the first faces visitors to the College Football Hall of Fame will get to see upon entering the doors will be that of former University of Florida quarterback and National Football League receiver Terry LeCount. The smile will be broad and his posture ramrod straight. LeCount is working at the hall as the quality assurance lead and on a recent weekend afternoon, he’s busy greeting visitors, some draped in Florida Gators gear others in their respective favorite schools and college football programs. LeCount treats them all the same; with a hug and hand shake and in some cases a selfie.
“Everybody needs to feel special when they walk into the building,” says LeCount. “My bottom line is that I enjoy seeing people everyday.”
The thousands of people LeCount meets every week have amazed the former professional athlete. They come to Atlanta from all over the country “I have talked to more people in my three years here than I had during my career in [college and professional] football,” says LeCount. Following a stellar high school football career at William M. Raines High School in Jacksonville, Florida where he was not only a 4A state champion winning quarterback but a state champion in track and field, LeCount accepted the rare scholarship offer a Southeastern Conference football program to an African American quarterback.
How rare was it for Florida to sign a black quarterback? LeCount was only the second in the school’s history when he arrived on campus as a freshman in 1974. Former Jacksonville City Councilman and University of North Florida law professor Donald Gaffney proceeded LeCount four years earlier and led the Gators to three consecutive bowl games.
The patience and people skills LeCount learned as one of only a couple hundred African American students on the Gainesville campus helped him in what he would eventually do during his post-playing careers within the Decatur School System and at the College Football Hall of Fame. Imagine being the face of a predominantly white school and college football program as the starting quarterback in the south in 1977. LeCount had to both play well while also destroying stereotypes that face black quarterbacks even today despite the success of Super Bowl champions Doug Williams and current Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback Russell Wilson and stars like Atlanta native and Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton.
“In the early ‘70’s it was just us on campus and we had to stick together,” says LeCount about his time at Florida, where he met his wife Valjean. “There were about 1,000 black students compared to about 35,000 white students.” Not much has changed, according to collegedata.com there’s only 6.5 percent of the student falling under the Black/African American ethnicity compared to 65.1 percent white.
That “sticking together” would continue to come in handy as Valjean would help LeCount find an outlet for his football knowledge and ability to connect with people through the game. Before he started at the College Football Hall of Fame in 2015 he was a teacher and paraprofessional with City Schools of Decatur for over a decade after holding similar positions in Minneapolis and in the Bay Area. “I really enjoyed my time in the school system,” says LeCount who taught kindergarten for his entire time with City Schools of Decatur.
“I enjoyed going to work everyday and now I enjoy coming to work at the hall. It’s been an amazing trip.” That trip began with a suggestion by Valjean to check out the new location of the College Football Hall of Fame, it was going to be downtown on Marietta Street. “I kind of stumbled into the hall, I give all the credit to my wife,” says LeCount.
“She reminded me that I was good with people and I really didn’t think much of it. She was thinking big picture.” A few phone calls later, one of college football’s best quarterbacks was downtown working the crowds of college football fans eager to see what the hall of fame had in store. “When I got [there] they had no idea of my education background and my time working with people,” says LeCount of his initial time at the College Football Hall of Fame. “Once I got in there and showed my potential management realized what they had.”
The staff at the hall is relatively young and LeCount’s years of service as a collegiate and professional athlete blended with his decade-plus as an educator helps train and prepare his young co-workers for better positions within the company. “It’s rewarding to see people move up in the company, that’s a blessing,” says LeCount. Young men and women are learning a thing or two from LeCount as are the college football fans that he crosses paths with. LeCount also met with current Houston Texans quarterback and former Clemson star Deshaun Watson while at the hall says of the young star-to-be, “That guy’s a better person than he is an athlete. I cherish that young man. He’s going to be good in the N.F.L..”
LeCount is giving back to the game and the game in the form of the College Football Hall of Fame is giving back to him. If you happen to drop by the hall this weekend you’ll see LeCount in action. You can’t miss him, he’s the guy with the broad smile that you’ll see as soon as you walk through the doors.