Spartan Nation caught up with legendary Michigan State quarterback Jimmy Raye to discuss a variety of different topics, ranging from his playing days in East Lansing to some projects that he’s been working on over the past couple of years.
Raye, who recently authored the book Raye of Light, which reflects on his journey to Michigan State and his role helping pave the way for other African Americans in the game of football, was also involved with the Men of Sparta film.
Raye said that the film gave viewers a look back at the Michigan State National Championship teams from 1965 and 1966 and also offered an in-depth look at the times and the challenges many of the players went through and how they all made their way to East Lansing and became one of the greatest teams in college football history.
“I’m ecstatic, extremely proud, I think it’s a must-see,” he said. “It brings a historical perspective to the time and the era that we played at Michigan State and the transformation that took place since then because of that. I think the thing about the film is it chronicles the accomplishments of the ’65 and ’66 National Championship teams, it’s an all-inclusive film that includes not only the great stars of that era on those teams but the players, the contributors on that team that didn’t receive the notoriety that the big name draft choice players received. Everybody that helped Michigan State win back-to-back National Championships and their backgrounds and how it all came together for people of different ethnicities and geographical locations as far away as Hawaii and the upper peninsula in Michigan and as deep south as Texas and North Carolina and South Carolina and Georgia. I think it’s a tremendous historical event and presence and I think it’s for all – not just Michigan State alum, but for all people in the United States.”
When looking back at his own recruitment, Raye, who grew up in North Carolina, remembered that he wouldn’t be able to receive offers from schools in the ACC and SEC because of certain laws that existed at the time.
But when he received an offer to play for Michigan State, Raye remembered the opportunity being meaningful to him because he could play for a prominent school and receive a good education as well.
“It meant the world to me,” he said. “It meant a great opportunity to get an outstanding education and a great opportunity to have a chance to play football in the Big Ten Conference. During the time I grew up in the segregated south and the Jim Crow laws. It was illegal in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference, the two conferences close to proximity to where I lived in North Carolina, it would be illegal to offer athletic scholarships, or tender as they called it at that time, to minority, black Americans. So the opportunity to be recruited by Michigan State and have an opportunity to go to the Big Ten and have an education at Michigan State was amazing.”
In his time at Michigan State, Raye became known a trailblazer as he was the first African American quarterback to ever win a National Title and was also the starting quarterback for the Spartans in the legendary ‘Game of the Century’ against Notre Dame, which ended in a 10-10 tie.
During the podcast, Raye told Spartan Nation that while he was attending Michigan State, he was simply focused on playing the game of football, but has since realized and come to appreciate the impact he made on the game of football and how he helped pave the way for African Americans in the game of football.
“I do now, but to be honest with you I was a player, I was just playing,” he said. “I was playing and wanted to be a good player and wanted to win games. I later realized the social ramifications and the impact that it had and now when I look around in the last 10-15 years and it’s almost unusual to see a team in the south or in the country that doesn’t have a black quarterback. When I played on the national stage at a Division 1 school, I was the only starting black quarterback in the United States. It has impacted me and my association with Michigan State, the residuals have been tremendous and hopefully, I’ve led in such a way that the young people don’t have to worry about the color of their skin, only the content of their character and their athletic ability to play the position and to be in the position to play the position and not get changed once their college careers are over.”
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