Antoine Bethea was a late pick in the 2006 NFL Draft — one that paid off handsomely for the Indianapolis Colts. He helped the franchise win the Super Bowl as a rookie and made two Pro Bowls before finishing his career with three teams in five years.
More than two decades after setting foot on the campus of Howard University, Bethea is now back in the HBCU football world as he prepares to make his debut as a color analyst with HBCU Go this fall.
“It’s full circle,” Bethea told HBCU Gameday at SIAC Media Day. “You got to Charlie Neal who used to call some of the games I used to play in, but now being able to be behind the camera, behind the microphone, man… a lot of guys that got the same vision, the same dream that I had and to be able to talk about the game that I love — I’m very, very excited just about the opportunity being able to see these young guys just go after their dream and what they pursue to do (professionally).”
Bethea knows first-hand the challenges that accompany HBCU players when getting evaluated by pro scouts.
“I tell the young guys you just don’t know when the opportunity will come. You have to be ready. And it’s not only on the student-athletes,” Antoine Bethea said. “I feel like it is on the scouts — it’s on the teams to be able to do their job at the highest and the best of their ability. And don’t be scared to be able to go into those NFL boardrooms and stand on the table to look out for guys from HBCUs.”
Antoine Bethea was projected to be as high as a third or fourth-round pick coming out of Howard, but dropped to the Indianapolis Colts in the sixth round. He was the 21st safety drafted that year.
“We had these conversations where it’s kind of easier for a scout to go into a room and say, ‘hey this guy from Alabama or Ohio State — he’s good,” Bethea continued. “Alright, cool, but being able to do your research and your due diligence on a guy from the HBCU — that we know it’s guys across the landscape, that have the ability to play at the next level. We just got to be able to do it.”
In between interviews and working the room, Bethea also spent some time talking to players. One of them was Joshua Hayward, a 6’2 cornerback at Benedict College. Though his production isn’t quite as high, his size is comparable to another former Division II HBCU defensive back who ended up as a fourth-round NFL Draft pick recently — former Fayetteville State star Joshua Williams.
Williams was a fourth-round pick in the 2022 draft and went on to help the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl as a rookie.
“I was just telling the young guys it’s got to be a thing that you do throughout the week. Those scouts coming in are looking for pros that’s in college. They’re not looking for college players that’s going to turn pro. They are looking for guys that already have that mindset. So, again, being in a room like this, being able to tell some of these guys the same sentiment is very important. I’m HBCU to the death, man. I’m gonna continue to hold the HBCU landscape down.”