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MEAC Football: FAMU Rattlers Bag First-Ever 5-Star Recruit

Former 5-star recruit and Under Armour All-American Calvin Ashley is now officially a Rattler.

Former 5-star recruit and Under Armour All-American Calvin Ashley is now officially a Florida A&M Rattler.

With his signing, Ashley becomes the first-ever 5-star recruit to play at an HBCU and the stigma of HBCU football programs as inferior in talent takes a major hit.   

The move hasn’t captured the headlines on social media and various sports outlets, but it’s one of the most culturally significant power moves in recent memory when it comes to HBCU football programs being considered viable destinations for future pro athletes. 

Ashley originally attended Auburn. He then transferred to Florida Atlantic but never played with the team. The 6’7″ 330-pound right tackle from Orlando completed his enrollment paperwork at FAMU on Wednesday. He took his physical on Thursday and is now clear to suit up and practice with his new teammates. 

Changing The Recruiting Culture

Calvin realizes what kind of power move he’s making. He’s breaking the chains and busting up the monopoly that  D-1 white institutions have had on five-star African-American athletes. By the time the redshirt sophomore with NFL draft potential ascends to the next level, his hope is that he will have personally inspired a shift in HBCU recruiting at the college football level. 

“People have been in my ear forever about going to FAMU. It’s next level. Game-changing,” Ashley said. “I feel like this is going to bring other players to HBCUs. Everybody chooses to go to PWIs. Me making this move could make others to make a similar decision.”

FAMU’s Tallahassee location was the biggest influence in Ashley’s decision to go to an HBCU. Ashley’s wife attends Florida State and a close family friend of whom he calls his brother is a student at FAMU. 

According to Tallahassee.com, “The proximity of being with his wife and son, plus the closeness of being near his hometown of Orlando, made FAMU a great fit for his collegiate career. 

The importance of being around family steered Ashley right into the hands of FAMU offensive line coach Alex Jackson, whose offensive line will be undoubtedly upgraded.  

“It’s like Christmas in August,” FAMU offensive line coach Alex Jackson said. “It was a major need to fill some holes on the offensive line. We needed some more depth. Not only do we get depth, but we also get a great player. It’s historic to have a top player coming out of high school. It’s a great addition to our university. This gives us momentum going into the season.” 

HBCU’s Becoming Second Chance U For Discarded Black Athletes

It took Ashley two tries and a reality check before he settled in on FAMU. His enrollment is the third bombshell announcement this month concerning a high profile Power School player transferring to an HBCU. Back in May, Jackson State welcomed former University of Florida quarterback, Jalon Jones, after two women accused him of sexual battery and then declined to file charges.

Deondre Francois announced his enrollment at Hampton University as a graduate transfer and will play this season for Pirates.

Francois was dismissed from FSU in February after his former girlfriend posted a video on Instagram accusing him of abuse. No charges were filed against the quarterback.

HU coach Robert Prunty said he has no concerns about Francois’ character.

“He wasn’t charged with anything, and he graduated from Florida State in three and a half years,” Prunty said. “He wasn’t dismissed from school, he was dismissed from the football team.

Francois, a two-year starter at FSU, has two seasons of eligibility remaining. In 25 games with the Seminoles, Francois passed for 6,291 yards with 36 touchdowns. He was named the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2016 and he’s intelligent, having already graduated in December with a degree in social science. 

HBCUs were neither of these guys’ first choice. The players went the normal route of attending Power Conference schools with visions of All-American accolades and NFL glory at the end of the rainbow. Extreme circumstances have brought them to teams they wouldn’t give the time of day as blue-chip high school prospects seeking college glory. 

These guys not only have the pressure of ushering in a new era of college football, but they must prove to be high character leaders as they attempt to turn the clock back to a time when HBCU players going pro were plentiful. Before the NCAA’s Southern powerhouse schools began loosening its racist restrictions and hoarding all of the elite black talent.  

The HBCU Golden Era

Between 1967 and 1972, 365 HBCU players were selected. In 1967, linebacker Bob Lanier was a senior at Morgan State College in Baltimore Lanier was drafted in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs, 50th overall. Legendary Black sports journalist Bill Rhoden crafted a Hall of Fame career by studying the intersection of sports and race. In 2017, he wrote an article on the deterioration of HBCU talent.

“What I find interesting is how the conversation around HBCU football has changed between the era in which Lanier was drafted and today when HBCU players are rarely seen on NFL draft day.”

During the golden era, roughly between 1963 and 1976, there was an atmosphere of expectation, almost entitlement, among HBCU players. Today, we celebrate the novelty of a Tarik Cohen because of the rarity of HBCU players being drafted.”

Maybe the culture is shifting again. 

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