2022 Football

NFL camps begin for 32 HBCU players

Former Virginia State and CIAA standout Trenton Cannon (#23) is shown here Monday in the Tennessee Titans’ camp. Cannon is one of the 23 veterans amongst 32 HBCU products in NFL camps.

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.

Three-time all-pro Terron Armstead is now with Miami after nine years in New Orleans.

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

Joe Thomas

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


Shemar Bridges

85        WR      6-4       207      24        R          Fort Valley State College


David Moore

60        G         6-2       320      24        1          Grambling State

Alex Taylor

70        T          6-8       301      25        2          South Carolina State


Tytus Howard

71        OL        6-5       322      26        4          Alabama State


Shaquille Leonard

53        LB        6-2       230      27        5          South Carolina State

Grover Stewart

90        DT        6-4       315      28        6          Albany State (Ga.)


De’Shaan Dixon

47        DE       6-5       260      23        R          Norfolk State

Ryan McDaniel

19        WR      6-2       215      N/A      R          North Carolina Central


Joshua Williams

23        DB       6-3       193      22        R          Fayetteville State University


Brandon Parker

75        T          6-8       320      26        5          North Carolina A&T

Terron Armstead

72        T          6-5       305      31        10        University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff

Kion Smith

76        T          6-5       311      23        1          Fayetteville State University


Trent Scott

64        OL        6-5       320      28        5          Grambling State


Trenton Cannon

23        RB       5-11     185      28        5          Virginia State

NFC – 18

Antonio Hamilton

33 CB 6-0 188 29 7 South Carolina State 

Joshua Miles

66 OL 6-5 314 26 4 Morgan State

Quinton Bell

56 OLB 6-4 253 26 2 Prairie View A&M

KhaDarel Hodge

12 WR 5-11 183 27 5 Prairie View A&M

Darryl Johnson

92 DE 6-6 250 25. 4 North Carolina A&T


Ja’Tyre Carter

69 OL 6-3 311 23 R Southern

Lachavious Simmons

73 OL 6-5 319 25 3 Tennessee State

Joe Thomas

45 LB 6-1 227 31 8 South Carolina State


Markquese Bell

41 S 6-3 205 23. R Florida A&M


James Houston

59 LB 6-1 241 23 R Jackson State

Bobby Price

27 CB 6-3 208 24 3 Norfolk State


Cobie Durant

14 DB 5-11 180 24 R South Carolina State


Jamie Gillan

17 P 6-1 207 25 4 Arkansas at Pine Bluff


Javon Hargrave

97 DT 6-2 305 29 7 South Carolina State

Mac McCain III

37 CB 6-0 185 24. 2 North Carolina A&T


Nick Leverett

60 G 6-4 310 25 2 Rice/NC Central

Jequez Ezzard

84 WR 5-10 195 24 R Sam Houston State/Howard 

Danny Johnson

36 CB 5-9 190 26 5 Southern

NFL camps begin for 32 HBCU players
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