If you want to know about the state of black college football alumni in the NFL, head to tiny Grambling, LA. This sleepy town is home to one of college football's most historic programs, Grambling State Unversity.
Under the tutelage of Eddie Robinson, Grambling was a pro football factory for more than half a century. From Tank Younger in the the late 40s to Jake Reed in the 90s, the G-Men produced NFL talent on a yearly basis.
Today, more then fifteen years after Robinson's last game, that stream has turned into a trickle. There are now only two Grambling players in the NFL: Washington defensive end Jason Hatcher and Giants tight end Larry Donnell.
Both Hatcher and Donnell are a part of the post-Robinson era. Hatcher was a big-time pass catcher at Jena (LA) High School, playing both reciever and tight end. He actually started his career at Grambling under Doug Williams as a tight end before switching to defensive end. He quickly adapted to his new position, racking up 10 sacks as a senior in 2005 while helping Grambling to an 11-1 record and a SWAC Championship under Melvin Spears.
Hatcher was selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the third round of the 2006 NFL Draft, where he spent his first eight seasons in the NFL.
Though he would eventually find success as a tight end, Donell came to Grambling as a quarterback. The 6'6, 265 lb pass catcher was soon converted to tight end. Donell helped his alma mater win its 23rd SWAC title in 2008 and caught 11 touchdowns during his time there. He would go undrafted and have to sit out the 2011 season before signing with the Giants in 2012.
Donnell slowly worked his way up from the practice squad to the playing field before experincing a breakout season in 2014. After catching just one pass prior to the season, Donell has taken the league by storm with 33 catches and four touchdowns in his team's first seven games.
Hatcher signed with Washinton prior to the 2014 season, but injuries slowed him down in the preseason. Slowly, but surely, he's rounding into form as he's registered three sacks in his team's first seven games.
Earlier this season, Donnell had one of the biggest offensive nights of any HBCU player in a long time when he caught three touchdown passes against Hatcher's burgundy and gold on Sept. 25. That game proved that even though the NFL numbers for Grambling and HBCU football may be down, they can still have a big impact in the pros.