Throughout their history, HBCUs have consistently turned coal into diamonds, both on and off the field of play. In the Jim Crow Era, these schools built dynasties around players that larger schools ignored simply because of the color of their skin. That's obviously no longer the case, but HBCUs have found their niche as opportunities for big-time talents that need fresh starts. Check out this list of former FBS players putting in work at HBCUs:
Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
Crowell is probably the most high-profile name on this list, as he was on his way to becoming a star at Georgia. Crowell was named SEC Rookie of The Year in 2011, but an offseason arrest marked the end of his tenture in Athens. Crowell has been one of the better backs in the FCS since transferring to Alabama State, having rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 25 touchdowns in 17 games at ASU. Last week he was added to the Walter Payton Award watch list.
AC Leonard, Tennessee State
Leonard is currently one of the top tight ends at the FCS level. He started out his career at the University of Florida, where he caught eight passes for 99 yards as a freshman in 2011. Off-the-field issues preceeded his transfer to Tennessee State. Since joining the Tigers last year, Leonard has been the team's most reliable weapon in the passing game. The 6''4, 235 pound Jacksonville, FL native caught 51 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns in 2012, winning numerous All-American honors. He currently has 22 catches and four touchdowns through five games for TSU.
Lynden Trail, Norfolk State
Like Leonard, Trail's path to HBCU stardom went through Gainesville. Trail was redshirted as a freshman in 2010 and never saw the field during 2011. Trail transferred to Norfolk State in the spring of 2012 and was a big hit in his first season. The 6'7 DE/LB recorded a team-high seven sacks despite starting just three games. This season, Trail has continued to play at a high level in 2013, recording 38 tackles and 4.5 sacks through five games.
Dexter Moody, Albany State
Moody took a long and winding road to get to Albany State. He was headed to Georgia after high school, but had his scholarship revoked. He played a season at Georgia State before getting kicked off the team for his alleged involvement in an off-the-field issue. Last season he set the SIAC on fire, picking off seven passes. So far the free safety has picked off two passes in four games.
Shaun Kitchens, Shaw University
Kitchens is another former SEC player who has found a home in HBCU football. Kitchens was a member of the Cam Newton-led Auburn squad that won the 2010 BCS National Title. A few months later, Kitchens and three of his teammates were arrested on armed robbery charges, and dropped from the team. Kitchens spent two years out of football before resurfacing at Shaw, a Division II school in the CIAA. Kitchens promptly broke the school record for catches in his first game (12) and then broke it again two weeks later.
Rolandan Finch, Norfolk State
Finch differs from the other players on this list in that he actually graduated from his initial school. Finch attended Boston College from 2009-2012, earning his bachelors degree while playing for the Eagles. With a year of eligibly remaining, he chose to enroll at Norfolk State for grad school and play for the Spartans. Five games into the season, Finch leads the MEAC in rushing with 403 yards.