Six HBCU Players Get The Call In The NFL Draft

By Tony McClean
Updated: April 24, 2005

NEW YORK — Last year, two only HBCU football players (Hampton DE Isaac Hilton and Southern DB Lenny Williams) were picked in the NFL Draft. The pair went in consecutive picks (Williams at 252nd overall to Tampa; Hilton at 253 by the Giants) in last year’s seventh round.

While the first two HBCU selections in the 2005 NFL Draft would again be in consecutive picks, four other standouts would also get the call in day two on Sunday. To no surprise, all six players were mentioned in BASN’s NFL Draft Preview of HBCU prospects a little over two weeks ago.
In Saturday’s second round, MEAC defensive backs Ronald Bartell of Howard and Nick Collins of Bethune Cookman were the 50th and 51st picks overall. Bartell, who finished with 39 tackles (29 solos), an interception, 14 pass deflections and a fumble recovery for the Bison in 2004, was chosen by the St. Louis Rams.
“Our scouts, particularly our defensive staff, unanimously had very strong opinions about Ron and how he fits in to our defense”, said Rams’ head coach Mike Martz. “Whether it is corner or free safety, here is a young man who has terrific size and speed. I was very impressed with his athleticism.”
A two-time, All-MEAC selection for the Wildcats the last two seasons, Collins was picked by the Green Bay Packers. “I think from a physical standpoint, he’ll (Collins) be OK,” Packers head coach Mike Sherman said.
“But mentally, certainly there’ll be some challenges, particularly playing the safety position. But our defensive staff feels confident they can teach him our scheme and advance him and get him on the field at some point.”
The Cheeseheads weren’t done in with picking talent from an HBCU campus. In the fifth round on Sunday, they tabbed North Carolina A&T center Junius Coston as the 143rd pick overall. The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder was an All-MEAC selection for the Aggies in 2004.
Coston, who was the first of two picks obtained from Oakland for S Marques Anderson, finished his career in Greensboro with 41 consecutive starts while helping clear the way for a rushing attack that avergaed 4.5 yards per carry last season.
“I think athletically he’s better than people think,” Packers southeast scout Brian Gutekunst said of Coston’s fifth-round status. “I’m sure the small-school thing probably came into play a little bit with that, but we thought very highly of him.”
“We thought highly enough to pick him (at the 143rd pick), that’s for sure. The (Mid Eastern Athletic Conference), sure, it isn’t Division I, but they play pretty good football and they get some athletes.”
The Houston Texans also used two picks Sunday to tab a pair of black college standouts as well. They used used their fourth-round pick (114th overall) on blazing wide receiver Jerome Mathis from Hampton University.
At 5-11 and 181 pounds, Mathis ran the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine (4.28). In 35 games during his collegiate career, he averaged a touchdown every 4.4 receptions and had 32 plays for 40 yards or more, 21 of those ending in touchdowns.

The former track star led the nation with a 35.5-yard average on kickoff returns in 2004, and set an NCAA season record by returning five for touchdowns. Unlike the many track-stars-turned-football-players, though, Mathis is a football player first.

“As I look at Jerome, I see a player with rare talent,” Texans head coach Dom Capers said. “He’s not only a speed guy, a track guy. What you see on tape is a football player. I think he can help us in multiple situations, as a receiver, return specialist and he has the type of toughness that he can go out there on special teams and run down the field as a gunner (on punt coverage).”

Outside linebacker and defensive end Kenneth Pettway rounded out the Texans’ draft picks in the seventh round (227th overall). After starting his collegiate career at Southern Arkansas, Pettway, a 6-foot-3, 236 pounder, transferred to Grambling State.

He picked up All-SWAC first-team honors in 2004 after leading the Tigers with 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He also blocked two kicks on special teams.

Pettway follows in the footsteps of Jason Babin and Charlie Anderson, two Texans who also had to make the conversion to outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. “You can never have enough of these types of players in this defense,” Capers added.

“When you get to this point in the draft, you are always looking for somebody who has the athletic ability to rush the passer. Charlie Anderson, an undersized end from a year ago, came in and we feel good about his progress. Many times, you can find conversion players at this point in the draft who have athletic ability.”

Tuskegee wideout Henry Williams was the last black college player selected Sunday. The former Wildcat was chosen in the seventh round (240th overall) by the New York Jets. He finished his four-year stay at Tuskegee with 84 receptions for 1,609 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 19.2 yards per catch.

The 6-foot-3, 180-pound Williams had his best year as a senior in 2004 with 43 catches for 678 yards (15.8 avg) and three scores. As a freshman in 2001, he averaged 24.9 yards on 10 receptions, and then rivaled that average again as a junior with a 23.2 mark on 27 catches for 626 yards.

The TU standout wasn’t shy about his feelings on being drafted by Gang Green. “I told them whoever drafted me was going to get a steal . . . and they got a steal”, said Williams.

Keep checking in with BASN later this week as we give you a comprehensive look at all the black college players that will be picked as NFL free agents.

NOTE:, The St. Louis News-Dispatch, The Green Bay Gazette, and The Houston Chronicle all contributed to this story.