2003 HBCU Draftees: A Look Back

By Tony McClean
Updated: October 16, 2007

Frank WalkerBRISTOL, CT.—Last year’s 2003 NFL Draft saw eight HBCU players drafted by five teams. From Jacksonville’s Rashean Mathis (Bethune-Cookman) to the Giants’ Frank Walker (Tuskegee), all eight made some major impact with their respective teams.

Let’s take a look at their rookie seasons.

DB Rashean Mathis, Bethune-Cookman (39th overall, Jaguars) A Jacksonville native, Mathis was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month in November. He started all five of the club’s November games and missed only one defensive play all month. The 6-1, 202-pound cornerback posted 34 tackles and at least one pass defensed in every game and added an interception against Tennessee’s Steve McNair, the NFL’s top-rated passer. DB Drayton Florence, Tuskegee (46th overall, Chargers) Saw action all 16 games as rookie and finished season with 16 tackles and two passes defensed. Florence also also recorded four tackles on special teams coverage units. He was used primarily as third cornerback in nickel situations, sharing time with Quentin Jammer. Florence was used in emergency action as safety. His best performance came when he recorded a season-high six tackles at Oakland on Sept. 28.

OL Courtney Van Buren, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (80th overall, Chargers) The massive lineman (6-5, 350) saw substantial action in 11 games last season, including 7 starts. But like many Charger lineman in 2003, Van Buren was hit with the injury bug. A knee injury kept him out of the final two games of the season. Unofficially, Van Buren is slated to begin the 2004 season as a backup to starters Phil Bogle and Damion McIntosh.

TE Vishante Shiancoe, Morgan State (91st overall, Giants) After seeing mosly special teams play early in the season, the Morgan State product took over the starting tight end responsibilities while Jeremy Shockey was sidelined with an injured knee. His 1st NFL touchdown pass was the lone score in New York’s 45-7 loss to the Saints (the “Joe Horn cell phone” call). He finished the season with 16 catches for 56 yards and 2 TDs.

DE Robert Mathis, Alabama A&M (138th overall, Colts) Mathis proved to have an instant imapct on the Colts’ improving defense. The 2002 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year saw action in all 16 regular season games and all 3 playoff games. He finished the year with 28 total tackles (20 solos) along with 3.5 sacks despite playing most of the season with a sore groin. Mathis comes to camp with an outside shot of being the starter at left end.

WR/KR Zuriel Smith, Hampton (186th overall, Cowboys) Smith had an up-and-down season with Dallas. Playing mostly on special teams, he solidified his selection with an excellent training camp. He began the year as the Cowboys’ primary kick return specialist, including 21.5 average in kickoff returns. Despite leading the team in both punt and kickoff returns, he was replaced late in the season by veteran Michael Bates. He also caught 3 passes for 46 yards.

OL Marcus Ogden, Howard (193rd by Jaguars) Ogden saw little action last season with the Jags, but the team is committed to sticking with the Howard standout. He’s one of six players Jacksonville sent over to NFL Europe to gain some seasoning. Ogden is currently the starting left tackle for the Scottish Claymores and will be given an extensive look-see by the Jaguars during this summer’s training camp.

DB Frank Walker, Tuskegee (207th by Giants) Much like his HBCU counterpart (Shiancoe) on offense, Walker took advantage of an injury to break into the starting lineup. The Tuskegee standout took over the starting left corner position for William Peterson, who was placed on injured reserve. He finished the season with two interceptions on the season, one against the Vikings and another, that he returned for a touchdown on Monday Night Football against the Buccaneers. He’s listed as the starter entering training camp.

NOTE: NFL.com contributed to this story.