The 2021 NFL Draft has come and gone.
Yet despite the fact that nearly 260 players transitioned from college students to professional athletes throughout the course of that evening, there wasn’t a single one who was drafted from an HBCU.
Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Not a single one.
Division III standout Quinn Meinerz got snatched up by the Denver Broncos in the third round, but players like North Carolina Central cornerback Bryan Mills—who many assumed would hear his name called during one of the later rounds—fell out of the draft entirely. He would eventually sign with the Seattle Seahawks, but only after becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Unsurprisingly, Jackson State coach Deion Sanders is pissed that players from HBCUs aren’t getting any love and took to Instagram to call the NFL.
“And we have the Audacity to Hate on one another while our kids are being NEGLECTED & REJECTED,” he wrote. “I witnessed a multitude of kids that we played against that were more than qualified to be drafted. My prayers are that This won’t EVER happen again. Get yo knife out my back and fight with me not against me!”
Other Hall of Fame greats like Terrell Owens, Marshall Faulk, Rod Smith, and Michael Strahan co-signed Sanders’ statement in the comments.
“I know there’s a ton of talent at all levels but that’s ridiculous,” Smith chimed in. “Thanks for making us aware, coach.”
Grambling State legend Doug Williams, who went on to become the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl in 1988, offered his opinion on the matter as well.
“It’s hard to believe that not one guy is worthy of being drafted,” Williams, who now serves as a senior advisor for the Washington Football Team, told the Washington Post. “That to me, that’s a travesty. Hopefully, we can fix it.”
“A travesty” is one way to describe it, but how does this even happen?
The coronavirus pandemic has derailed just about every part of our lives and sports are no different. So since smaller programs were forced to eliminate pro day workouts and either forfeit or cancel seasons entirely, big name schools became the bread and butter of NFL scouting departments—at the expense of HBCU student-athletes. This isn’t the first time that HBCUs have been shut out, but that doesn’t make what happened in this year’s draft any less concerning.
From the Post:
Faced with uncertainty, NFL front offices relied on powerhouse programs more than usual. Only five players from the Football Championship Subdivision were chosen, the lowest since 1993, along with two Division II players and one from Division III.
Despite these challenges, NFL teams were still presented with ample opportunity to scout HBCU talent. And while they fell through the cracks on draft night, a hand full of HBCU players have already landed on NFL rosters with others expected to follow. FAMU tackle Calvin Ashley has signed with the Bucs, North Carolina A&T cornerback Mac McCain III is a Denver Bronco, and Grambling tackle David Moore is a member of the Carolina Panthers.
“I think that [the pandemic] played a huge role in the lack of players represented from our conference and also from HBCU football,” Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs told the Post. “There’s plenty of guys who have the ability to be drafted and should have been drafted. But I think when it boils down to it, these teams were not able to do as thorough a search as they normally are. […] But yes, it is a little bit of a disappointment. I don’t think it’s anything personal. People are trying to fill their rosters with the best players that they can and also with no-brainers. The pandemic played a huge role in eliminating a lot of those diamonds in the rough.”
Thankfully, more and more big-name recruits are committing to HBCUs. So try as they may to ignore or undervalue our talents, at the end of the day, we won’t be denied.