HBCU Legacy Bowl will help Black college player’s visibility with NFL scouts

The NFL is partnering with the Black College Football Hall of Fame to put on a game that will give HBCU players more pro looks

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Now HBCU players will get a chance to showcase their skills for NFL scouts. The Black College Football Hall of Fame announced today that they will host the HBCU Legacy Bowl, a post-season All-Star game that will give football players a better chance to be seen by NFL scouts.

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“The HBCU Legacy Bowl means opportunity and exposure for HBCU players and coaches,” said Doug Williams, who is a co-founder of the Black College Football Hall of Fame, in a release to media. The former Grambling University star is also an inductee as the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl with the Washington (then Redskins) Football Team in 1988. “We’re excited to have this in New Orleans, especially during Black History Month.”

Washington Redskins v Green Bay Packers
Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams of the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field on December 08, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

The game will be played the first Saturday after Super Bowl LVI at Tulane University’s Yulman Stadium. The NFL Network will broadcast the game live. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Tulane University is also partnering in the effort. The Legacy Bowl will be the last event in a celebratory week of HBCU and Black culture, according to a press release.

“HBCUs are a bridge to equality,” says BCHS co-founder and inductee James “Shack” Harris. “We thank the NFL for their support and in sharing our commitment to lifting up others.”

Over 100 HBCU players are expected to be invited to participate in the Legacy Bowl.

The Black College Football Hall of Fame was created in 2009 by Harris, 73, and Williams, 65. Harris was the first Black quarterback to start a season in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. He played with Marlin Briscoe, the very first Black quarterback to ever start an NFL game with the Denver Broncos, but who later converted to wide receiver when opportunities to play at the quarterback position dried up.

The Legacy Bowl is intended to address some of the issues often underfunded HBCU football programs have to help their students into the pro ranks. When top-ranked Black high school football players started attending major universities like Nebraska, Alabama, Clemson, and other predominantly white schools, the dearth of top Black talent hurt the HBCU’s, who were once dominant in college football.

Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton, 49’ers great Jerry Rice, the late Steve McNair, Michael Strahan, and Shannon Sharpe, along with Williams and Harris all came from HBCUs, but their influence has greatly diminished.

Savannah State v Georgia Southern
Members of the Georgia Southern Eagles marching band perform before the start of their game against the Savannah State Tigers in 2016. (Photo by Todd Bennett/Getty Images)

As of January 2021, last year’s Super Bowl champion Antonio Hamilton (South Carolina State) a defensive back for the Kansas City Chiefs, left tackle Terron Armstead (University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff) of the New Orleans Saints and Pro Bowler Darius Leonard (South Carolina State) of the Indianapolis Colts were among the most prominent NFL players from HBCU’s this past season.

“I think we as a league and as scouts have to pay a little more attention to the historically Black colleges, maybe not like in the past before integration, but I still think you’re still going to come up with one, two, three or four guys that can play at this level,” Williams told The Undefeated in 2016.

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“I know, since I’ve been in the administration part of it, that some of these scouts are inclined to give a guy at an FBS school who has not played at all more of an opportunity than a guy who’s played four years at a historically Black college. I think what we have to do is don’t judge the school. We’ve got to start judging the player. It’s all about opportunity.”

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