Ashley R. Smith
Florida A& M University
(BLACK PRWIRE)(FAMU-TALLAHASSEE) (April 9, 2009) - - As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches on April 25, draftees intensify their training and the realization of their lifelong dream becomes almost in reach. The stigma associated with draft recognition follows the title of a 2007 ESPN.com article, “Want to get drafted? Big-name schools are the ticket.” But with accomplished names like NFL greats Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State University) and Walter Payton (Jackson State University), who both refined their skills at black colleges, one could argue its validity.
Amplified media coverage of wealthier athletic departments continues to eclipse the presence of black college players preparing for the draft. Student athletes from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) as well as other black colleges who were not invited to the combine, will have a chance to showcase their talents as NFL scouts visit individual universities in search of the next Super Bowl standout.
Howard University, Jackson State University and Hampton University have all produced outstanding athletes in the league, including a second-rounder (Linebacker Justin Durant) and a third-rounder (Defensive End Kendall Langford) in the last two NFL Drafts.
Howard’s six-round draft pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Antoine Bethea, became a 2007 pro bowler and a Super Bowl champion in his rookie season. In a previous article with USA Today, Bethea stated, "There's a lot of players in the league that come from small black schools. And for us to be successful, it's going to help the people who come behind us. It's a big deal to come from a black college - and a small school."