Ben Williams, the first black player in program history, no. Ole Miss retires jersey number 74.

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Ole Miss football is retiring a number of program legends. Defenseman Ben Williams’ no. The school has announced the retirement of jersey number 74.First African American to play in a varsity game for Ole Miss.

The Rebels will have Williams’ number retired during the Egg Bowl against in-state rival Mississippi State, making him the fourth Ole Miss player to have his number retired. Archie Manning (18), Chucky Mullins (38) and Eli Manning (10) are the other three.

Keith Carter, Ole Miss vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics, said the program wanted to honor Williams’ accomplishments while acknowledging the path he set for future black athletes.

“It is our honor to recognize Gentle Ben and his immense impact among the greatest to ever wear the red and blue,” Carter said in a statement. “Few individuals in our university’s history have opened more doors for others than Penn. In a year when our campus celebrates 60 years of integration, the athletics department is excited to forever distinguish Penn – the player and the person. The walls in our football program and help make Ole Miss what it is today.”

Williams played for the Rebels from 1972 to 1975 and earned All-American honors in his final season with the program. Williams’ 37 career sacks still tops the record books at Ole Miss, and his 377 tackles are tied for fourth in school history.

The Buffalo Bills selected Williams in the third round of the 1976 NFL Draft, and he played 10 years with the franchise. In 1983, Williams earned a Pro Bowl selection.

Williams, who died in 2020 aged 65, created an impactful legacy at Oxford both on and off the field.

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