It is now go-time for 32 HBCU NFL players, veterans and newcomers, that entered NFL training camps over the past week.
The numbers include 23 HBCU veterans and nine newcomers trying to make the opening day rosters for NFL teams. Each team will be working towards finalizing a 53-man roster. Teams dress 46 players to play in single games.
There were only 22 HBCU players on opening day NFL rosters in 2021. That number was down from the 27 that were on opening day rosters in 2020. Last year’s numbers came after no HBCU players were taken in the 2021 NFL draft.
HBCU NFL vets in new digs
Ten-year veteran offensive tackle Terron Armstead has moved from New Orleans to Miami. The Arkansas-Pine Bluff product signed a five-year $75 million contract to join the Dolphins. The deal includes $43.37 million in guaranteed money.
Armstead, the most tenured HBCU player in the NFL, was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Saints. The left tackle was a three-time Pro Bowler in nine NFL seasons with New Orleans. Armstead was rated the top offensive lineman in free agency this season.
Another Arkansas-Pine Bluff product has also changed teams. Former Cleveland punter Jamie Gillan signed with the New York Giants after being waived by the Browns.
Gillan was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on December 9 and missed the last part of the Browns’ 2021-22 season. He was waived later that month. Gillan became known as the ‘Scottish Hammer’ during his three years in Cleveland. He signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and quickly became a fan favorite by averaging 46.2 yards per punt, with a net of 41.6 yards. Gillan averaged a net of 41.5 yards last season.
Other landing spots for HBCU NFL vets
Former Virginia State and CIAA standout Trenton Cannon will be with his fifth team in five years in the league. The running back/kick returner signed with Tennessee in March. He spent most of last season with San Francisco after stints with the NY Jets, Carolina and Baltimore. Cannon was drafted in the sixth round of the 2018 draft by the Jets.
Also in March, former SC State standout and two-time MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Joe Thomas signed with the Chicago Bears. Thomas is in his eighth year and with his fifth team.
Fifth-year former free agent offensive lineman Trent Scott out of Grambling State is in camp with his third team, Pittsburgh. Scott, who was signed in May, played with Carolina for two seasons after spending his first two years with the LA Chargers.
HBCU newcomers to the NFL
After no HBCU products were drafted a year ago and only two rookie free agents made NFL rosters, there was a strong emphasis over the past year on finding and giving exposure and opportunities to HBCU players. It could be said the results are an improvement.
Four HBCU payers were taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. Fayetteville State defensive back Joshua Williams was the first off the boards to Kansas City in the fourth round. SC State defensive back Decobie Durant was selected seven picks later in the round by the LA Rams. Jackson State DE/LB James Houston went in the sixth round to Detroit before Southern offensive lineman Ja’Tyre Carter went to Chicago in the seventh and final round. All are in camp.
Five other HBCU products, fresh out of college, signed rookie free agent contracts and are in camps. They include Fort Valley State wide receiver Shemar Bridges in Baltimore. Florida A&M defensive back Markquese Bell is in the Dallas Cowboys camp. Former Howard and Sam Houston State wide receiver/kick returner Jequez Ezzard is trying to make the Washington Commanders team. Norfolk State defensive end De’Shaun Dixon and NC Central wide receiver Ryan McDaniel are in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ camp.
HBCU Players in NFL camps
No. Pos. Ht. Wt. Age Exp. HBCU
AFC – 14
85 WR 6-4 207 24 R Fort Valley State College
60 G 6-2 320 24 1 Grambling State
70 T 6-8 301 25 2 South Carolina State
71 OL 6-5 322 26 4 Alabama State
53 LB 6-2 230 27 5 South Carolina State
90 DT 6-4 315 28 6 Albany State (Ga.)
47 DE 6-5 260 23 R Norfolk State
19 WR 6-2 215 N/A R North Carolina Central
23 DB 6-3 193 22 R Fayetteville State University
75 T 6-8 320 26 5 North Carolina A&T
72 T 6-5 305 31 10 University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
76 T 6-5 311 23 1 Fayetteville State University
64 OL 6-5 320 28 5 Grambling State
23 RB 5-11 185 28 5 Virginia State
NFC – 18
33 CB 6-0 188 29 7 South Carolina State
66 OL 6-5 314 26 4 Morgan State
56 OLB 6-4 253 26 2 Prairie View A&M
12 WR 5-11 183 27 5 Prairie View A&M
92 DE 6-6 250 25. 4 North Carolina A&T
69 OL 6-3 311 23 R Southern
73 OL 6-5 319 25 3 Tennessee State
45 LB 6-1 227 31 8 South Carolina State
41 S 6-3 205 23. R Florida A&M
59 LB 6-1 241 23 R Jackson State
27 CB 6-3 208 24 3 Norfolk State
14 DB 5-11 180 24 R South Carolina State
NEW YORK GIANTS
17 P 6-1 207 25 4 Arkansas at Pine Bluff
97 DT 6-2 305 29 7 South Carolina State
Mac McCain III
37 CB 6-0 185 24. 2 North Carolina A&T
60 G 6-4 310 25 2 Rice/NC Central
84 WR 5-10 195 24 R Sam Houston State/Howard
36 CB 5-9 190 26 5 Southern