Jackson State University head coach and Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders has made a concerted effort to level the playing field as it pertains to HBCU athletes receiving the same exposure for the NFL Draft as the Power Five programs.
Sanders has continually called out the one-sided practices of the NFL, and how they always seem to disregard Black College Football. Sanders recently mentioned at his joint Mississippi HBCU pro day the 10 NFL teams that failed to have representation. The pro day featured players from Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State, all part of the SWAC football conference.
In a recent interview on “The Rich Eisen Show,” Sanders, the walking soundbite, didn’t hold back and even expressed his idea of a fix to the obvious separatism between HBCUs and Power Five FBS programs.
“What I’m trying to do. I don’t like separatism, Rich, and I don’t like, you’ve got a black combine. I don’t like that. Let’s just have one combine. With the black combine, you have 64 kids or 52 kids. I’ve done the math. There’s only like four or five kids a position. We got time for five kids more a position, we got time for five more 40s. We got time for five more bench presses a position, that’s easy.
“Instead of keeping it separate let’s just involve the kids from HBCUs. Instead of having two darn separate combines, which 20 percent of the people that showed up at the HBCU combine. That’s not fair, not fair at all.”
.@GoJSUTigersFB had their Pro Day this week to great success and @DeionSanders took notice at who was and wasn't there in attendance — love this with Coach Prime:#NFL #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/wHF5e2n7Re
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) March 25, 2022
Jackson State And FAMU Host NFL Heavy Pro Days: Sanders Not Satisfied
Last week, JSU hosted its joint pro with the other aforementioned SWAC schools, and 22 NFL teams sent representatives. While head coach Sanders was excited for the turnout, he wanted all 32 in attendance. Being satisfied with a few handouts is not Sanders’ long-term goal. He wants to change the entire working relationship between HBCUs and NFL teams.
“Everything is getting better,” Sanders said. “And I’m going to continue pushing the envelope. Everything helps because these guys deserve the attention and this focus, and they flat out play.”
On Tuesday, the Rattlers had their pro day amid construction being done in their football stadium. They received a 30-team NFL turnout down in Tallahassee. Maybe it had something to do with the NFL coaches and owners meetings taking place in West Palm Beach, a couple of hours away. Head coach Willie Simmons was excited for the turnout, and had this to say.
“It was a really, really amazing day and I’m proud of some of the performances of some of our guys.”
Only Four Players From HBCUs Invited to NFL Combine: HBCU Combine Was Part of Reese’s Senior Bowl Week
The NFL Combine, which is the crème de la crème of the NFL Draft process, only had four HBCU athletes in attendance: Markquese Bell, a talented do-it-all defensive back from Florida A&M, Ja’Tyre Carter a bruising offensive lineman from Southern, DeCobie Durant, a ball-hawking corner who was the defensive player of the year in the MEAC and Joshua Williams a talented boundary corner capable of playing in multiple defensive schemes. All showed they’re capable of playing at the next level, on the field or at the combine.
Four HBCU Football Players received invites to the 2022 NFL Combine. #ThisIsHome
Markquese Bell, DB, #FAMU
Ja'Tyre Carter, OL, #SU
Decobie Durant, DB, #SCST
Joshua Williams, DB, #FSU@MarkqueseB @CarterJaTyre @One4_era @Jwilliofficial@FAMU_FB @GeauxJags @SCState_Fb @FSUBroncos pic.twitter.com/jqt7nmUJ6v
— HBCU Digital Network (@HBCUDigital) February 10, 2022
While that’s great for them, there are so many more deserving of the opportunity to show what they can do in front of all 32 NFL teams, with multiple team reps in attendance.
Aqeel Glass and Will Adams
Others like Alabama A&M standout quarterback Aqeel Glass and Virginia State stud defensive back Will Adams were part of the 42 relegated to only being seen at the HBCU Combine in Mobile, Alabama. In a league where QBs who can actually play are at a premium, Glass should’ve been invited to Indy. He would be no worse than the third or fourth QB taken in this draft with the right exposure. And in a league that passes the football 61 percent of the time, having corners who can play is mandatory, so Adams should’ve been invited as well.
It’s a positive sign for HBCUs that players are increasingly being given the opportunity to showcase their skills for NFL teams.
The intention is that this will become less taboo and more par for the course. If you strip the school from the players back and the advantage in reputation and name hype, wouldn’t that give scouts a better indication of who’s physically ready to attack the next level? Because the combine isn’t about how well you play. So, it’s short of show. And Deion, who’s always been about the show, wants his HBCU family to be a part of it.