Of the 254 players chosen, four were from HBCU programs: defensive tackle Kenric Ellis (Hampton, by the New York Jets, third round), offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath (South Carolina State, by Detroit, seventh round), defensive tackle Frank Kearse (Alabama A&M, by Miami, seventh round), and cornerback Curtis Holcomb (Florida A&M, by San Francisco, seventh round). It marked twice the number of HBCU players selected in 2010, when the two-player class represented the lowest ever in the era of the common draft, but was still a modest amount.
"It's not like we've quit going to those schools, but they've just stopped (producing) 'draftable' players," one prominent AFC general manager said. "There are a lot of reasons, but the numbers don't lie."
The Packers have found two gems from those schools, with Donald Driver (Alcorn State) and Nick Collins (Bethune-Cookman). However, after taking Collins and Junius Coston (North Carolina A&T) in 2005, the Packers have not selected a player from a HCBU school. And before Collins and Coston, they hadn't selected a player form a HCBU school since Joey Jamison (Texas Southern) in 2000 and Driver, Chris Akins (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) and Cletidus Hunt (Kentucky State) in 1999.
The Sports Xchange has detailed some of the factors in the past — the impact of integration at the major football schools, recruiting, economics, level of coaching, among them — and the situation isn't likely to improve anytime soon.
This marked the 11th year in a row that the HCBU schools had single-digit prospects selected, and the eighth time in that period that there were five or fewer. The last time the HBCU programs had more than eight players chosen was 2000, when there were 13. In the 11 drafts since then, only 51 players from HBCU schools were chosen, and 24 of those were in the sixth or seventh rounds. There's been only one first-rounder, Arizona corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State, 2008), in that period, and just 14 players taken in the first three rounds.
"You just feel like you have to work harder, but, if you do, they'll find you," said Holcomb, the first player drafted from FAMU since 2000. "But it's not easy."
Ellis, in fact, was the lone player chosen from an HBCU school among the top 200 picks. And, the fact is, Ellis would not have been at Hampton were he not dismissed from the South Carolina program for off-field indiscretions. Said Ellis: "I'll always be grateful for the opportunity they gave me (at Hampton) to play there. I won't forget that."
Seems that increasingly, though, the league has forgotten about the HBCU schools.
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