Is HBCU Football finally getting the recognition they deserve? They just might be after Jackson State University landed NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders as their new head coach. Historically, black college and university football programs have been deprived for decades of the best talent due to top prospects going to top FBS schools. The Southwestern Atlantic Conference (SWAC) and Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) are the only FCS conferences that are predominantly HBCUs. This has been happening for so long that most people have forgotten a lot of Hall of Famers came from these schools. Primetime’s recent hiring influenced the 4x Pro Bowler Eddie George to become Tennessee State’s new head coach. The former Heisman Trophy winner and 1996 Offensive Rookie of the Year can give a little more spotlight to a conference that deserves more exposure to the ultimate goal that is the NFL.
Let’s look at the Bulldogs of Alabama A&M. Their undefeated 5-0 record was quite impressive despite numerous games that were postponed or canceled. Take a look at the stats on this five-game stretch. Average points per game: 40, Total plays called: 291, averaging 6.3 yards per play and 457 yards per game. Their total yards for the season were 1828. Quarterback Aqeel Glass had a dream season averaging 338 yards and three touchdowns per game. The senior finished the season with 91 completions for 128 attempts and 1355 yards with 16 touchdowns.
Jackson State’s football program increased their production as well, improving from a 4-8 record after the 2019 season to a 4-3 record after the 2021 spring season. It’s started off hot for the Tigers as they had a blow-out win against Edward Waters college, 53-0. The team had 435 total offensive yards through 75 plays, averaging 5.8 yards per play. Not to mention four touchdowns on the ground and three threw the air. The influence Deion Sanders had was shown on this day.
That’s just two schools that have shown their dominance this past season. Imagine if only a couple of NFL teams could just look past the big-name school and pay a little more attention. The offseason is all about finding players that can fit what your team needs and can they become a competent NFL player, so why not look everywhere for it.
Back in the 70s and 80s, these schools were all that a black football player had to get to the professional level. But ever since big schools like Alabama, USC, Ohio State, and Clemson started offering them scholarships, pro teams started to look only at big-name schools for the best talent.
Let’s just look at some names from HBCUs, shall we? Alabama A&M’s Robert Mathis was drafted in the fifth round of the 2003 draft by Indianapolis. He went on to become a 5x pro bowler, an NFL sack leader in 2013, and help the Colts to a Super Bowl championship. UAPB’s Terror Armstead was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft to New Orleans. The 3x First Team All SWAC player went on the become a 3x Pro Bowler with the Saints. The offensive tackle only allowed three sacks in the last three seasons. Sounds like three is his lucky number right! Alcorn State’s Donald Driver was drafted to Green Bay in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft. The wide receiver paired up with Brett Farve and then Aaron Rodgers went on to record seven 1,000 yard seasons.
More names to add are the likes of Harry Carson, Deacon Jones, John Stallworth, Harold Carmichael, Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and Mel Blount. The list goes on. But some notable names that you didn’t know went to HBCUs like Walter Payton, Doug Williams, Shannon Sharpe, even Michael Strahan, and ultimately Jerry Rice. Will we see HBCUs in the future get more attention?