Three HBCU players were selected in the just concluded 2018 NFL Draft – none of which came from Grambling State.
South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard was the first taken off the board with the 36th pick by the Indianapolis Colts. Leonard set a school record with 394 career tackles and earned MEAC defensive player of the year in back-to-back seasons. He has been called “today’s linebacker.”
“Leonard possesses excellent speed and changes direction with ease. Leonard routinely fires downhill and shoots the gap effectively. He has loose hips that he uses to mirror his man in coverage. Leonard has a high football IQ. He’s quick to diagnose plays as they develop. He’s also shown the ability to get after the quarterback when sent on blitzes. He is today’s linebacker,” wrote Justin Melo of the Draft Wire.
But mainstream media can’t help but get a dig in regarding HBCUs. Writer Kevin Hickey wrote “Leonard’s career production at South Carolina State – albeit a MEAC school – was immense.” Leonard proved he could compete with the best of ‘em at the Senior Bowl, which helped him move up the draft board.
North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker also was taken in the second round by the Oakland Raiders. That made two HBCU players drafted on opening night. Parker started every game for the Aggies from 2015-17 and is credited with not allowing a sack at his position. He was named the MEAC offensive lineman of the year for three consecutive seasons.
And the third draftee was none other than Virginia State RB Trenton Cannon in the sixth round by the New York Jets. Cannon is the Trojans all-time rushing leader and CIAA offensive player of the year.
But the journey is not over for other HBCU hopefuls like Grambling quarterback DeVante Kincade, whom many predicted would be drafted. Phones are ringing off the hook from teams offering a free-agent contract, which, sometimes, can be a better situation.