High Hopes: Howard’s Bethea Awaits A Call From The NFL

By Tony McClean
Updated: April 20, 2006

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — In last year’s NFL Draft, Howard University standout Ronald Bartell Jr. was the first HBCU player chosen. The defensive back was chosen in the second round (50th overall) by the St. Louis Rams.

With the 2006 draft just a few weeks away, there’s a possibility that one of Bartell’s former Bison teammates in the secondary could be one of the first HBCU players chosen.
At 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, safety Antoine Bethea was one of only four HBCU players that were invited to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis back in February.
While he was looked at by some scouts as a project, Bethea used the combine to open some eyes and improve his standing in the draft.
After running a 4.39 in his 40 (one of the fastest times of the Combine), the HU product had slowly created a buzz for himself.
Since the combine and his pro day back in March, Bethea has visited with eight teams including Seattle, Minnesota, and Washington.
In fact, Bethea also had meetings earlier in the week with Cleveland and Indianapolis. “Talking with Ronald (Bartell) about what he went through last year gave me a big heads up,” Bethea added.
“One of the things he stressed to may was to stay loose and not get uptight. I’ve been training very hard over the last few months and I’m just trying to get faster and stronger.”
“The main thing I wanted to do was to stay calm because most of the drills we had to do were similar to what any football player has to in either a camp or in training for a season.”
In 2005, Bethea recorded 49 solo tackles, 34 assisted tackles, three tackles for losses and a career-best five interceptions as the Bison defense again ranked among the best in both the MEAC and in Division 1-AA.
A native of Newport News, Va., Bethea was also named to the 2005 American Urban Radio Network/Sheridan Broadcasting Network (SBN) Black College All-American team.
It was the third time that Bethea has been so honored, making him one of only four honorees: Steve McNair (Alcorn State), former Bison standout Tracy White, and Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State) to be selected for three straight years.
For his career, Bethea registered 190 solo tackles, 114 assisted tackles 13 tackles for losses, eight interceptions, six fumble recoveries and five forced fumbles
Like many of draft hopefuls anxiously awaiting the weekend of April 29-30, Bethea has heard varying reports as to where he may be drafted. “I’ve been told I will go anywhere from late in second round to possibly early in the third or fourth”, Bethea added.
“I’d love to go in the first day and who wouldn’t, but I really don’t have any control over that. Realistically, as long as my name is called at some point over the weekend, I’ll be happy”
“My dream is to play in the NFL and I’m just keep my ears open and hope for the best. It doesn’t really matter to me where I go, just as long as get a chance to showcase my abilities.”
Several scouting outlets lists Bethea’s strengths are his great speed and quickness for the position. His aggressiveness and physical nature are also listed as a plus, however some scouts also feel that he may be a bit undersized at 5-11.
“My aggressiveness can be a plus or a minus at times”, Bethea added. “Most folks that I’ve talked with say that they like that in me, but I’ve got to harness it sometimes so I won’t take myself out of position.”
Bethea, a criminal justice major who is scheduled to graduate from Howard University this summer, says that he’ll spend draft weekend at home with family and friends.
NOTE: Over the next few weeks, we here at BASN will be following Bethea’s progress as we monitor his football happenings before, during, and after the draft. Stay with BASN as we feature Antoine’s weekly journal.