NFL greats believe former Greenville High football star Jimmie Giles belongs in Pro Football Hall of Fame

By DAVID W. HEALY,

Jimmie Giles, a former Greenville High School football star who led the Hornets to the 1972 state championship, finished his outstanding NFL career in 1989. But, those who played on the same field as him and those who coached against him have not forgotten what a talented tight end he was.

There is now a push to get Giles into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. After a stellar career at Alcorn State, Giles was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1977. Giles has been largely overlooked for the Hall of Fame since his career ended, but he is hoping to be reconsidered by the senior selection committee.

Giles’ career took off after he was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after his rookie season for the first overall pick in the draft. He is a four time pro bowler who amassed, during a more run-oriented era in the NFL, 5,084 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns. For his best seasons, he also averaged more 16 yards receiving yards per catch and is one of only three tight ends in NFL history to average more than 14.5 receptions per catch in his NFL career. 

These numbers, however, only tell a portion of the story. In a youtube video made recently to make the case for Giles’ Hall of Fame inclusion, many of the great players and coaches talked about what a remarkable player Giles was. Here are just a sample of the compliments made to the Greenville native.

“When you talk about Hall of Famers, you talk about the guy that when the opposing team comes up with their plan on Sunday, who are they trying to take away. Jimmy was that guy. — Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Richard Dent

“(Coach Bill) Parcells used to always say, ‘Listen, the one guy you are going to have to worry about is that damn Jimmie Giles’.” — New York Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor

“There are seven tight ends in the Hall of Fame, Jimmie deserves to be in there as much as any of us.” — Cleveland Browns Hall of Fame tight end Ozzie Newsome

“I can’t remember any tight end dominating us that way.” — Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame coach Don Shula

“I wish we had him. I always voted for him for the Pro Bowl. I think he’s the best tight end in football.” —  NFL coach Buddy Ryan.

During a telephone interview from his Tampa Bay home Thursday morning, Giles, 65, said he is flattered by all the compliments he has received from many NFL greats. He said making it into the Hall of Fame would be a great honor, but he does not spend his days obsessing about it.

Giles said he is aware that having played for the Buccaneers for the majority of his career might have hurt his chances in the past of getting into the Hall of Fame. While Tampa Bay mostly struggled as an expansion franchise during Giles’ career, he did help lead them to the NFC Championship game in 1979, where the Buccaneers lost to the L.A. Rams 9-0. Giles caught the go-ahead touchdown in this game, but it was called back due to a penalty.

“I think if people look at my performance and the consistency that I played with then they should know that I have done enough to be included,” Giles said.

He said his career would never have happened without the work ethic instilled in him by his parents. He also credits his coaches from Greenville for helping him be the best player he could be.

One of Giles’ fondest memories was bringing home the state championship to Greenville in 1972.  The team helped bring the city together after integration a year earlier forced T.L. Weston High School and Coleman High School to merge with Greenville High School.

“We were all there for one cause and that was winning the state title,” Giles said. “We all came together just like in the movie Remember the Titans. The only difference was that we had a white man (Gary Dempsey) who was the head coach and a strong authoritative black man (Fred Washington) who was our assistant coach.”

The 1972 Hornet team also included stars like Wilbert Montgomery who later went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. Other key members of the team included Cleotha Montgomery, Chip Vance, Hugh Christensen, and Charles Brady, among others.

Giles, who was inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, was also a star baseball player for the Hornets. He turned down a football scholarship at Jackson State to walk-on and play baseball at Alcorn. He was later drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 12th round.

After his football career ended, Giles remained in the Tampa Bay area and founded an insurance adjustment which became the largest minority owned insurance adjustment agency in the Southeast. The company is now operated by two of Giles’ children.

Giles may live in Florida, but he still calls Greenville home. He tries to make it back to Greenville a couple times each year to visit family members. His sister Debra Giles is a chancery court judge for subdistrict 2 which includes Washington, Sunflower and Humphreys Counties. His sister Linda Giles is a teacher at Matty Akin Elementary School in Greenville.

“I will always love Greenville,” he said.