Ready For Prime Time

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: April 29, 2009

NFL Draft PHILADELPHIA — The pipeline between the NFL and Historically Black Colleges and Universities has been strong for years. Hall of Famers John Stallworth, Art Shell, Willie Davis, Mel Blount, Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and others were drafted from HBCU’s and produced very successful NFL careers.

Unfortunately after expecting possibly as many as eight HBCU players being drafted, there were only four HBCU players selected in the 2009 NFL Draft. HBCU players selected in the 2009 NFL Draft are listed below with their analysis.

Stillman DT Sammie Lee Hill (4th Rd, 115th overall by Lions)

The four-year starter lined up at left defensive end as a junior and senior, but with explosive burst penetrating the gaps and wide frame, many teams feel that he is better suited to play inside at tackle at the next level, his original college position. Expect Hill, a BTRC/BASN HBCU All-American selection, to immediately get a chance in the defensive line rotation of Lions head Jim Schwartz. Hill will have the opportunity to learn from veteran Grady Jackson.

St. Paul’s (Va.) DB Greg Toler (4th Rd, 131st overall by Cardinals)

Another BTRC/BASN HBCU All-American selection, this year’s No. 1 HBCU prospect will join last year’s rookie sensation Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State) in the Cardinals secondary. Toler earned All-CIAA and Little All-American first-team honors in 2008. He placed fourth on the team with a career-high 51 tackles (37 solo), including 4.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Expect to see Toler in nickel and dime coverage packages plus on special teams.

Norfolk State DB Don Carey (6th Rd, 177th overall by Browns)

Carey was a four-year starter for NSU from 2005-08. He was a two-time All-MEAC second-team pick in 2007 and 2008. As a senior in 2008, Carey tied for the MEAC lead with five interceptions. After talk of him following in Rodgers-Cromartie’s footsteps, the Browns were pleasantly surprised to see him last until the sixth round. Look for Carey to challenge corner Brandon McDonald for playing time. He should be very good in the nickel and on special teams.

Tennessee State RB Javarris Williams (7th Rd, 212nd overall by Chiefs)

Another BTRC/BASN HBCU All-American selection, Williams was the Ohio Valley Conference “Offensive Player of the Year”, averaging a conference best 103.7 ypg with 1,037 yards in 10 games, including a league-best 15 rushing touchdowns. Surprisingly it took until the seventh round for the MVP of the East-West Shrine game to come off the board. The rebuilding Chiefs may have gotten a steal as running back gems can be found all over the draft. Williams should compete with Jamal Charles and Kolby Smith for carries behind Larry Johnson. Expect Williams to be given a chance initially on special teams and returning kickoffs.

With over 72% of players being drafted in the 2009 NFL Draft coming from BCS schools, sometimes it is a numbers game for players that are drafted or undrafted from other schools.

But being drafted is not the end all as many greats have gone undrafted including former Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Guard Nate Newton (Florida A&M, 1986 Draft Class).

So players like Tuskegee quarterback Jacary Atkinson, Jackson State CB Domonique Johnson (Broncos), Texas Southern QB Bobby Reid, Virginia Union CB Niles Rainey, Tennessee State OG/OT Cornelius Lewis (Colts), Hampton DT Chris Baker (Redskins), Shaw DE Louis Ellis and Tennessee State C Cecil Newton (Jaguars) will have to go the undrafted free agent route to NFL stardom.