Over the years, historically Black colleges and universities have produced many stars for the National Football League including Jerry Rice, considered by many experts as the best wide receiver in the history of the NFL and Walter Payton, one of the greatest running backs in league history. Other NFL stars from HBCUs include Steve McNair, Harry Carson, Donald Driver, Shannon Sharpe, and Doug Williams, all of whom played in a Super Bowl. But in recent years, players from HBCUs have been largely ignored in the NFL draft of college players.
In 1994, 17 football players from historically Black colleges and universities were drafted by teams in the National Football League. In the year 2000, there were 13 players from HBCUs drafted into the NFL. Every year since then there has been less than 10. This year there was only one. Christian Thompson, a defensive back from South Carolina State University, was selected in the fourth round by the Baltimore Ravens.
There are fewer rounds for teams to select players than was the case in the past. But other reasons for the low number of players from HBCUs who are drafted may include a lack of national television and media exposure for HBCU players, low regard for HBCU football by NFL scouts, and the unproven ability of HBCU athletes to perform on “the big stage.”
Another reason may be that the predominantly White universities in the South that are national football powerhouses are more inclined now to actively recruit Black players than was the case 20 years ago. And Black players may find the campus environment at these predominantly White schools more welcoming than was the case a generation ago. Thus, fewer of the best African American football players may be choosing to attend HBCUs.
Many other players from HBCUs make it to the NFL as undrafted free agents. But these players generally are paid less than drafted players.