You Ball, You Get The Call | HBCUs See Four Drafted One Year After Black Colleges Were Shut Out

(David Grubb)

One year after having no players selected in the NFL draft, HBCUs saw four players drafted on the last day of the 2022 NFL draft.

Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders and a host of former HBCU players, including Grambling State legend and Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, have been using their platforms for the betterment of HBCU athletes, trumpeting a demand for the NFL to respect their talents.

Joshua Williams of D-II Fayetteville State was the first HBCU player taken, in the fourth round with the 135th pick.

The 6-foot-3 rangy cover corner caught the eye of the Kansas City Chiefs, a team that is depleted in the secondary and definitely can use strong cover guys and playmakers.

He was followed by cornerback DeCobie Durant, the reigning MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, who was taken with the 142nd pick by the defending Super Bowl champion Rams.

Of those four, Williams, Durant and Ja’Tyre Carter (Chicago Bears, seventh round) were three of the four HBCU players invited to the NFL Combine.

The Lions added sack master James “The Problem” Houston in the sixth round with the 217th pick, making him the first JSU player drafted in 10 years.

He’s also the first draft pick of the Deion Sanders era. Last but not least was Southern swing offensive lineman Carter.

After the way franchise quarterback Justin Fields was under pressure every game last season, “the Monsters of the Midway” need all the offensive line help they can muster.

Lions GM Brad Holmes Promised To Draft From HBCUs: He Kept His Promise

It’s no secret that HBCUs don’t get the love that Power Five and mid-major programs get as it pertains to visibility and exposure. This HBCU blackout has hurt the chances of some dynamic players from those institutions being drafted.

Lions Hire HBCU Grad Brad Holmes As General Manager

Lions GM Brad Holmes, did his part to help change that narrative by selecting Houston from JSU. Holmes, who’s relentlessly talked about giving HBCU players a chance since last year’s shutout, says his mom would always ask why HBCU players don’t get drafted.

“My mom gives me crap about it all the time. Why don’t you draft any HBCU players? But I’ve always said about that, too. They have to control it, too. They don’t get drafted just because they’re at an HBCU. They have to earn it. So, these kids earned it. Last year just wasn’t that caliber or process. It was a great run for HBCU players for a long time.”

 

“You had the Darius Leonards and Tarik Cohens and Brandon Parkers, and it took a little dip with COVID,” Holmes added. “So it’s good to see that they’re making a lot better progress now.”

 

 

Deion Wanted 7-10 Drafted: He And Holmes Share The Same Aspirations

For weeks Sanders has said he wanted to see seven to 10 players get drafted from HBCUs. Following the Tigers’ spring game last Sunday, the first for an HBCU or FCS program to be televised, Sanders addressed the elephant in the NFL war room one last time before the draft.

“We want 10 [HBCU players drafted],” Sanders said before the draft. “Next year we want 15 to 17. Then we want 15 to 20. And then it’s going to go crazy after that. That’s the goal. Consistent progress.”

While that goal wasn’t achieved, seeing four players get the call is a welcome sight, especially when not one got the call in 2021.

Holmes, an HBCU graduate, also mentioned how he and Sanders want to see players from HBCUs get that opportunity and to play at the next level.

“I know me and Coach Prime, we all kind of had the same aspirations and the same motivation to kind of kick this thing off, and I can’t be more excited that I’m his first prospect in the NFL,” Holmes told ESPN.

The way Deion is running his HBCU operation, you can be rest assured that Houston is the first of many future NFL picks from JSU.