After being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) Combine is officially taking off in 2022.
The NFL and the Reese's Senior Bowl announced Wednesday that they will be hosting the first "HBCU Combine" next year, which will highlight athletes from four HBCU conferences — the CIAA, MEAC, SIAC and SWAC — as well as other HBCU schools. The combine is set for Jan. 28-29, 2022 at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.
“The Reese’s Senior Bowl is honored to be collaborating with the National Football League to host the inaugural HBCU Combine in Mobile, Alabama,” said Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy in a statement. “Over the years, the Senior Bowl has served as a showcase for some of the top Black college football players in America, including seven of our game’s 56 future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and this event will help many more HBCU players secure further attention and exposure from all 32 teams.”
Inequality drove creation of HBCU combine
No HBCU athletes were selected in the 2021 NFL draft. The HBCU combine is attempting to bring equity to pre-draft evaluations and give the most overlooked players an equal chance to be drafted.
“Throughout NFL history, HBCU athletes have exemplified a standard of excellence both on and off the field,” said Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, in a statement. “The HBCU Combine is part of honoring that legacy and making every effort to accelerate exposure of HBCU draft prospects to all NFL clubs. The game is better when all have the opportunity to compete.”
It was also the lack of HBCU players chosen in the 2020 draft that drove Vincent to help create this combine. Out of 337 draft-eligible players, just one HBCU player was chosen in 2020.
“That causes me to pause,’’ Vincent told The Undefeated in April 2020. “Three hundred kids — man, I know there’s more than one student-athlete professional prospect. Without pointing a finger, we all share in the responsibility for creating equity. That’s not equity to me.
“We pride ourselves on saying, ‘If you play, the game we will find you.’ And we’re seeing that that hasn’t really played out that way.’’
The HBCU combine will be patterned after the NFL scouting combine held annually in Indianapolis, and will give teams and scouts the opportunity to gather medical information, conduct interviews, and watch on-field evaluations of skills and acumen. Teams will also get the chance to see some of the HBCU's best players in action in the HBCU Legacy Bowl, which was announced in March. Around 100 of the top NFL draft-eligible players from HBCUs will be invited to play in a postseason all-star game.
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