Photo courtesy of Chicago Bears
After the HBCU Combine, scheduled for the last weekend of March was canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis, it put a plethora of HBCU stars NFL future into turmoil. A sole player emerged through that adversity to hear his name called during the 2020 NFL Draft.
Tennessee State offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons was the lone HBCU player picked in the NFL Draft. Simmons wasn’t picked until the Chicago Bears called his name in the seventh round with the 227th overall pick.
OTHER 2020 HBCU PROSPECTS
Take nothing away from Simmons, who becomes the first player from Tennessee State to be picked since 2015. Simmons also becomes the 24th Tigers lineman taken in NFL Draft history. He is the 122nd player from Tennessee State picked. That’s second among FCS schools.
But with all the talent coming out of HBCUs this season, it’s hard to believe that Simmons stood alone. Other standouts like Alcorn State running back Deshawn Waller, who ran for 1,723 yards in two seasons and Norfolk State cornerback Bobby Price surprisingly went undrafted. South Carolina State lineman Alex Taylor was the only HBCU player invited to the NFL Combine, and still did not hear his name called.
One could look at the cancellation of the HBCU Combine and Pro Days as potential reasons.
“I don’t think this year can be seen as a normal year for HBCU and similar small school prospects,” Norfolk State head coach Latrell Scott said. “The world-wide pandemic limited NFL personnel in their normal scouting routine; their evaluation process was cut short. There were only six FCS kids drafted. Fewer Group of Five kids were drafted also.”
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In 2019, Tytus Howard of Alabama State went 23rd overall to Houston. Darryl Johnson of North Carolina A&T went in the seventh round.
In 2018, eventual Defensive Rookie of the Year, Darius Leonard of South Carolina State, was the highest-drafted HBCU star. He went to Indianapolis with the 36th pick in the draft.
Prior to Howard, the last time an HBCU player was a first-round pick was in 2008 when Tennessee State’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was picked 16th overall by Arizona.
While the draft picks weren’t there, many HBCU players, including Price signed undrated free agent deals. Taylor was scooped up by the Cleveland Browns shortly after the draft as a UDFA. These two are among a plethora of stars to sign after the draft but the question remains.
Why weren’t more HBCU players taken this season, and what could have been done?