No alum of any of the historically black colleges and universities needs a lecture on the electricity that comes from a gameday experience. On the final Saturday of February, the Philadelphia Eagles and the rest of the NFL had an opportunity to experience that electricity one more time to put a bow on the NCAA football season. So did the rest of us. Thank the second-annual HBCU Legacy Bowl and its founders, Doug Williams and James “Shack” Harris, for that gift.
Williams, as most of you know, was the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Harris owns the distinction of being the first black QB to start an NFL regular-season game in 1974. Their vision, going forward, features a game played by two teams, Team Gaither and Team Robinson. Thank goodness that it exists, but a platform like this is long overdue.
Team Gaither is the namesake of Jake Gaither (Florida A&M). Team Robinson is named after Eddie Robinson (Grambling State). This time around, the former was led by Richard Hayes Jr. (Fayetteville State) and Trei Oliver (North Carolina Central). Their opponents on Team Robinson were coached by Chennis Berry (Benedict College) and Eric Dooley (Southern).
More than 30 scouts from NFL teams, the USFL, XFL, and CFL were on hand at the HBCU Legacy Bowl to check out some of the talent. Trust us on this one. There are plenty of guys that the Eagles might see as being interesting.
Here are two handfuls of prospects the Eagles should consider placing on their draft board following the HBCU Legacy Bowl.
NFL rosters both past and present have long stocked their cupboards with HBCU talent. Think about Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State), Steve McNair (Alcorn State), Mel Blount (Southern), and Eagles legend Harold Carmichael (Southern) among so many others.
Might we see another NFL immortal/future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee birthed from this bunch? Here are some guys that have our attention.
Alabama A&M wide receiver Isiah Cox
Alabama A&M Bulldogs wide receiver Isiah Cox hauled in 33 receptions for 425 yards and three TDs this past season. That includes an impressive seven-catch, 101-yard performance versus Mississippi Valley State University albeit in a loss.
Check that one out and his game versus the Troy Trojans to get a look at some of his big-play ability. He’s a wide receiver that also has kick and punt return ability.
Fayetteville State cornerback Brandon Barnes-Brown
Brandon Barnes-Brown is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina who probably grades out as a slot corner. He’s a bit undersized at five-foot-ten and 190 pounds, but that didn’t prevent him from earnibng a First-Team All-CIAA nod and a mention as a Second-Team HBCU All-American.
Jackson State CB De’Jahn Warren
De’Jahn Warren is a six-foot-one, 185-pound defensive back that already has the attention of NFL scouts. Learning to play cornerback under Deion Sanders is a nice feather in the cap as well.
Morgan State running back Alfonzo Graham
After watching him collect 1,150 rushing yards, eight touchdowns, and First-Team All-MEAC honors this past season, Alfonzo Graham gives us Boston Scott vibes. Despite that and the buzz he’s generated for himself at tailback, there’s some desire, unlike Scott, to see what he can do as a slot receiver.
Tennessee State WR J.J. Holloman
J.J. Holloman seemed to be on his way as a member of the Georgia Bulldogs before a 2018 alleged assault led to his dismissal. He needs a lot of things to go his way to earn a shot in the pros, and with there being concerns about his character, he needs to hope someone gives him a look because of his six-foot-three, 215-pound frame and his potential.
Bethune-Cookman tight end Kemari Averett
Nothing says ‘NFL’ like unique blends of size and athleticism. That’s where Bethune Cookman tight end Kemari Averett comes in.
He stands at six-foot-six. He tips the scales at 250 pounds, and he might actually already be the player the Eagles kept trying to convince themselves that Tyree Jackson was supposed to become.
Florida A&M WR Xavier Smith
Florida A&M wideout Xavier Smith already earned a nice shoutout from NFL Network analyst/former NFL star Steve Smith. He owns sub-4.4 speed and hauled in 87 passes for 1,021 yards, and 11 touchdowns this season for the Rattlers.
He also took home the hardware as the HBCU Legacy Bowl’s MVP.
Kentucky State University defensive back Jai Nunn-Liddell
We’ll honestly need to rewind some tape to evaluate Jai Nunn-Liddell’s technique, not just during the HBCU Legacy Bowl but during the 2022 college football season as well. Everyone wants their defensive backs to be physical and NO ONE laid the lumber like this young man.
Keep your head on a swivel whenever he’s around!
Defensive lineman Jason Dumas
Jason Dumas is a force to be reckoned with that can play multiple positions. He took home the hardware as the defensive MVP.
Bowie State defensive lineman Joshua Pryor
Well, we know the Eagles brass has a love affair with defensive linemen. Former Bowie State standout Joshua Pryor has to be among the best of the HBCU Legacy Bowl’s bunch.
He may need to put on a few pounds for the pro game. He’s six-foot-five and 255 pounds, but the talent is there. He led the CIAA in sacks (13), and he also added to the Bulldogs’ cause with 25 tackles that resulted in a loss of yardage.
Mississippi Valley State EDGE Ronnie Thomas
Former Mississippi Valley State star Ronnie Thomas carved out a lane for himself as a First-Team All-SWAC nod in 2022, and we expect him to be in someone’s camp as an undrafted rookie free agent following the next NFL Draft.
Who is SWAC? Thomas is! Sorry… we couldn’t resist. Something tells us Delta Devils legend Jerry Rice knows who Ronnie Thomas is. NFL scouts are also aware of him.
Final thoughts: Current NFL stars like linebacker James Houston, tackle Tytus Howard, linebacker Shaquille Leonard, tackle Terron Armstead, and someone Philadelphia Eagles fans are very familiar with, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, continue to carry on the HBCU legacy. Platforms like the HBCU Legacy Bowl, and the aforementioned USFL, CFL, and XFL provide even more opportunities for exposure. Look for more HBCU alums on the professional gridiron very soon.