ELIZABETH CITY, N.C. – Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) has tapped former NFL safety Antoine Bethea as the keynote speaker for 178th commencement on Saturday, May 4, 2024, at 9 a.m. The ceremony will take place in the R.L. Vaughn Center and will be live streamed.

Bethea, a Newport News native, was a standout athlete and scholar at Denbigh High School before attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. where he earned his bachelor’s in criminal justice before being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the sixth round in 2006. Over his 14-year career in the NFL, Bethea played as the starting safety for the Colts, the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, and ended his career with the New York Giants.

As a standout player, Bethea has been a Super Bowl champion, a three-time Pro Bowler, and was twice named the Walter Payton Man of the Year – the highest honor a player can receive from the league for their work off the field in the areas of philanthropy and community impact.

Bethea’s philanthropic efforts are amplified through the Bethea Family Foundation which focuses on improving the lives of people in underserved communities throughout the United States. His motivation comes from the idea of giving back and the act of developing a long-term platform to provide young people with the belief in their abilities and to make their dreams become a reality.

The Bethea Family Foundation has provided more than $50K in rent relief for families facing eviction due to COVID-19 pandemic impacts, partnered with the city of Newport News to build the city’s first lighted basketball court, and is currently developing the SafeHaven Empowerment Center, a state-of-the-art community center opening this year.

In addition to his philanthropic efforts, Bethea strives to improve communities through his business endeavors that include Elite Trucks LLC. and District 41 Sports Bar in Newport News. Bethea is currently the head of client development for The Sports and Entertainment Group, a color analyst for HBCU Go TV, co-founder, and chief strategy officer for BLKBRN Cannabis Retail Dispensary set to open this year in in Highland Park, New Jersey.

Bethea has also added author to his list of accolades with his memoir, “Bet on Yourself: Inside the Mind of the Ultimate Underdog," which gives readers an inside look at the methods that he used for success. In 2015, Bethea was inducted in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) Hall of Fame, two years later, he selected as the inaugural recipient of the NFL Players Association Black College Football Pro Player of the year, and in 2023 was named one of seven inductees into the Black College Football Hall of Fame.