Standout football players from historically Black colleges and universities will receive an additional opportunity to showcase their skills to NFL teams beginning next February.
The Black College Football Hall of Fame announced Thursday that it has established the HBCU Legacy Bowl – a postseason game for draft-eligible HBCU players. The NFL is partnering with the organization to produce the event. The game will take place on the Saturday after Super Bowl 56 at Tulane University's Yulman Stadium and will broadcast live on NFL Network.
Founded in 2009 by trailblazing Black quarterbacks James "Shack" Harris and Doug Williams as a tool to preserve history and honor the greatest players and coaches from HBCU programs, the Black College Football Hall of Fame has enshrined 90 members since its inception.
The organization partners with the NFL to host the annual Quarterback Coaching Summit, which is designed to educate and provide networking opportunities for coaches of color who have NFL aspirations. The Black College Football Hall of Fame, which has a wing at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, has also awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships for athletes attending HBCUs.
Now, with the founding of the game, the Black College Football Hall of Fame founders hope to help place those same athletes one step closer to the pros.
“Shack and I have always talked about an HBCU all-star game from a standpoint of helping the best guys be seen,” Williams, the MVP of Super Bowl 22, a former head coach at Grambling University and now a senior member of the Washington Football Team’s front office, told USA TODAY Sports.
“We understand how recruiting goes, and we know that the top guys might not be at the HBCUs. But there’s going to be enough guys that we feel like every year should have the opportunity to go to somebody’s training camp, and we felt like with this all-star game, it would give them that chance to get looked at (and) practice for three or four days so scouts can look at them and talk to them, and it could make an impact.”
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Of the 107 historically Black colleges and universities in the country, 21 field Division I football programs. Williams said around 100 players will receive invitations to compete in the Legacy Bowl, whose two teams will be coached by coaches from HBCU programs.
In each of the last two years, the NFL has planned to host a scouting combine exclusively for HBCU players. But COVID-19 restrictions have forced the cancelation of the event both times. The league aims to resurrect those plans next offseason.
Williams hopes the Legacy Bowl will give adequate exposure to garner the top standouts invitations to the NFL’s main scouting combine as well. In 2020, 29 HBCU players held either roster or practice squad spots in the league. But Williams wants to see that number increase.
“It’s hard to believe that with all the HBCUs that play, you can’t get five or six guys every year to training camps with an opportunity to make a practice squad or make a 53-man roster,” he said.
“So, with the Black College Football Hall of Fame, we just thought it was a great situation to have an all-star game to give those guys the opportunity just like the Senior Bowl and everything else.”