Five HBCU Standouts Get The Call From The NFL

By Tony McClean
Updated: May 2, 2007
image NEW YORK — For the first time in quite a while, at least one player from each of the four major conferences in black college football was chosen in this past weekend’s NFL College Draft.

In fact, five HBCU players were picked from either the SWAC, CIAA, MEAC, and SIAC this year. It’s the most since six players were chosen in the 2005 draft. Much like last year’s crop, all of these players have a good opportunity to make a significant impact on their teams.
What follows is a brief synopsis of each player taken. They’re listed in the order of when they were chosen in the draft. With NFL mini camps set to open soon, we here at BASN will take an overall look at all non-drafted HBCU players next week.

LB Justin Durant, Hampton
(2nd round by Jacksonville, 48th overall)
The South Carolina native became the highest selection in school history. Ironically, he was selected by the same team that drafted former HU cornerback Cordell Taylor in the second round (114th overall) of the 1998 draft. Durant’s selection marks the sixth Pirate player drafted since 2000 and the 11th since head coach Joe Taylor took over the program in 1992. When he ran a 4.51 at the NFL Combine, Jacksonville became very interested. Durant said he expects to play weak side linebacker for the Jaguars. “He’s a really exciting linebacker,” Jags head coach Jack Del Rio said of Durant. “We definitely made our roster stronger and faster.”

WR Jacoby Jones, Lane College
(3rd round by Houston, 73rd overall)
Jones didn’t even pick up football until his junior year in college and began his college career on a track scholarship at Southeastern Louisiana before transferring to Lane College in 2003. The SIAC’s Offensive Player of the Year became the first Lane player drafted since DT Ernest Bonwell was picked by the Dallas Cowboys (13th round, 285th overall) in 1971. “The pick of Jacoby is good for us for a lot of reasons,” Houston GM Rick Smith said. “He’s a young player with great size and speed and some range in his body and natural hands.”

DE Greg Peterson, N.C. Central
(5th round by Tampa Bay, 141st overall)
Peterson is the first NCCU player selected since Robert Massey, who roamed the Eagles’ secondary from 1985-88, was the 46th player (2nd round by the Saints) taken in the 1989 draft. The criminal justice major had just taken a shower and was hanging out with his grandmother at her home in Techey, N.C. when his phone rang Sunday. On the other end was Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who asked Peterson what he promised him when the two met earlier this year. “I told him that I would lead the team in effort,” Peterson recalled. Then Gruden said, “Congratulations.”

LB Johnny Baldwin, Alabama A&M
(5th round by Detroit, 158th overall)
Baldwin is the first Bulldog since Robert Mathis was chosen in 2003 (5th round, 138th overall) by the Colts. He led the team in tackles all four seasons as a starter and last year he helped the Bulldogs win the SWAC championship. Baldwin made quite an impression at A&M’s pro day. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds, had a 38-inch vertical leap, and 10-4 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 28 times.

“I’m a seek-and-destroy linebacker,” Baldwin said. “My instincts and athleticism are a big part of the package that I bring. I can go sideline-to-sideline. I think I’m a pretty smart player, too.”

CB Michael Coe, Alabama State
(5th round by Indianapolis, 173rd overall)
Coe finished his college career with 100 tackles, 76 solos, and also had seven interceptions and 1.5 sacks. “He’s a good cover guy,” Colts GM Bill Polian said. “He’s very aggressive and a good tackler. He’s not dissimilar to (third round pick) Daymeion Hughes.” Head Coach Tony Dungy said while Coe has return experience, he was tabbed for for his corner skills. “He’s got ball skills,” Dungy added. “He’s got talent. He’s a very smart player and a coach’s son. He’s going to fit into what we do really well.” Since Dungy’s arrival in 2002, the Colts have used 19 of 32 second-day draft selections on defense.