Jackson State defensive back and kick returner Isaiah Bolden was the only HBCU player selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. Bolden was selected with the No. 245 pick by the New England Patriots in the seventh round. While the HBCU world celebrated his success, a lot of fans wondered why he was the only HBCU player selected. Here are the two top reasons.
SUCCESS ON THE POWER 5 LEVEL
Before he transferred to Jackson State, Isaiah Bolden began his college football career at Florida State. There, Bolden was able to show NFL scouts that he could compete and produce amongst the best on the highest level of college football. Bolden played in 13 games with the Seminoles in 2019 and posted nine tackles, two pass breakups, and an interception. He also showcased his versatility (which will bring us to reason two) with his ability to contribute heavily on special teams. Bolden returned six kickoffs for 156 yards with his longest being for 42 yards.
VERSATILITY IS KEY
Isaiah Bolden is as versatile as it comes. Not only is he a ballhawks in the secondary, his is a big spark on special teams. In 2021 with Jackson State, Bolden led the both FBS and FCS in kickoff return average at 36.9 per attempt. He has proven that he can be a big contributor in the return game which is a highly sought after skillset in the league. For example, KaVontae Turpin for the Dallas Cowboys kept the team in many of games with his explosive return abilities. Teams value versatility in late round draft picks and Bolden has proven to be just that. On defense for the Tigers, Bolden produced 44 tackles, seven pass break ups, and a forced fumble in 2022.
This doesn’t mean that none of the other HBCU prospects had attributes that made them stand out because they surely did. This is simply to provide context to what made Isaiah Bolden stand out to the league.