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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Crowell, Leonard Turning Heads At Camps

We aren't sure if Isaiah Crowell and AC Leonard know each other, but the two rookies have a lot in common. Both started their careers at SEC schools, (Crowell at Georgia and Leonard at Florida) before legal issues led them to play their final two seasons at HBCUs (Alabama State for Crowell and Tennessee State for Leonard) and entering the NFL Draft after their junior seasons. Neither was drafted in May, but both found homes as UDFAs.

Well now both Crowell and Leonard are starting to turn heads at their first NFL Camp.

Crowell is competing for time in a crowded Cleveland Browns backfield with veterans like Ben Tate and rookies like Terrance West. Still, the former SEC Rookie of The Year is making a wave in Cleveland, where Fox Sports' Zac Jackson says the Browns consider him "a keeper."

Up in Minnesota, Leonard has left an impression on Vikings Territory writer Brett LaBathe. LaBethe took an in-depth look at Leonard as he battles for a roster spot at tight end.

"There is no doubting Leonard’s receiving ability. Leonard has displayed a nice release off the line and seems to be fluid and athletic in route running. He also possesses the type of speed and acceleration needed to get behind a defense and stretch the field from the tight end position."

Regardless of what happens to these two players from here on out, it's good to see that HBCUs are offering student-athletes a second chance when the big schools turn their backs on them.

The UCLA Flood And The Financial Disparity In College Sports

As many as eight inches of water covered parts of athletic facilites at UCLA on Tuesday night, including Pauley Pavilion and Spaulding Field. A broken water pipe was the culprit, drenching the football practice facility and the gym with millions of gallons of water.

But those aren't the only millions that are eye catching.

"A spokeswoman for UCLA said, at its peak, the water was as deep as eight inches at a facility that underwent a $136-million renovation, completed in 2012. A new synthetic turf was installed on Spaulding Field the same year."

A $136 million dollar renovation. Just think about that figure.

 To put that in to perspective, the SWAC's total athletic budget for 2013-14 was $71.1 million spread across 10 teams. Yet the SWAC and MEAC both compete in Division I, just like UCLA.

Make no mistake about it, the flooding at UCLA was an unfortunate event. But had that happened at an HBCU, it would be a catastrophe.
What would your HBCU do if its athletic facilities were hit with a similar curve ball? Most HBCU athletic departments are just living paycheck-to-paycheck. Something like this would probably set them back years financially, not just weeks or months.

Then again, HBCU sports have been in a broken-pipe financial cycle since they were started. And still, we rise.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

WSSU's Powell To Transfer To Hampton

Months after losing its head coach and several assistants, Winston-Salem State looks like it is about to lose one of its best players to Hampton, too.

Receiver Chase Powell announced his intention to join Hampton via Instagram Monday night. If it is true, Powell be reunited with Connell Maynor, who took over as Hampton's coach last winner. 

"God opened up a new chapter in my life," he wrote. "I committed to Hampton University."

The sophomore from Maryland caught 64 passes as a true freshman, helping WSSU make its third-straight playoff appearance. Powell is the reigning CIAA Offensive Rookie of The  Year and was a preseason All-CIAA selection last week. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sizzling Sophomores: Talented Second-Year Players Run The MEAC

(NC A&T Aggies photo)

Tarik Cohen, North Carolina A&T 

The diminutive back from Bunn started last season on the bench, carrying the ball just 22 times in the first four games. His breakout performance came in Week Five against Hampton where he exploded for 299 total yards (180 rushing, 119 receiving) and two touchdowns. Cohen rushed for 100-plus yards in five of A&T's last seven games in 2013, including a season-high 210 against FAMU. When the dust settled, Cohen rushed for a league-high 1,148 yards in 11 games.

Needless to say, Cohen enters 2014 as the key cog in an NC A&T offense that will be key if the program hopes to end its MEAC drought.

(Hampton photo)
Jorrian Washington, Hampton 

The "old man" on this list, Washington actually started 2013 as a wide receiver. Washington didn't see his first action in the backfield until the Hampton game, but paid immediate dividends as he rushed for 85 yards and caught a touchdown pass. Washington would rush for 115-plus yards in his next three games, finishing the season with just under 700 yards rushing with an average of six yards per carry.

The Los Angeles native is probably the best all-around back on this list, as he caught 32 passes and is a dangerous kick returner, averaging over 24 yards per return in 2013. If Hampton is to make the turnaround that many expect them to make in 2014, Washington will be a key component.

(Howard photo)
Anthony Philyaw, Howard 

Philyaw was only the second leading rusher on his team, but he's already one of the MEAC's best backs. Like Cohen, Philyaw didn't set the world on fire his first couple of games, but his confidence seemed to grow with every carry. Philyaw turned in three 100 yard-plus performances in 2013, including two in a row to finish the season vs. Texas Southern and Hampton. Add in a 98 yard, 3 touchdown performance against Morgan State for homecoming and there's plenty of home for Howard heading into 2014.
(Suffolk News Herald Photo)

Lamont Brown, Morgan State

Another first-year success story. Brown's carries at Morgan State weren't always consistent, but he made the most of them. Brown rushed for 708 yards, good for sixth in the MEAC. He only has one 100-yard game, but rushed for more than 75 yards in half of the 12 games he played in.

Greg McGhee, Howard

The quarterback ran for nearly 900 yards last season.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Roll Call: HBCU Alumni In NFL Camps

With the entire NFL now involved in training camp, we figured it was as good a time as any to take a look at which HBCU alumni were in NFL Camps. According to our count, 69 former HBCU stars are currently participating in training camp action.

The program with the most players in NFL Camps as of late July is Hampton with eight, with Tennessee State and South Carolina State just behind at six players apiece. Four teams tied for the lead with five players each: Titans, Redskins, Giants and Seahawks.

Of the 69 players on this list, 21 are rookies. Only two out of those 21, Tennessee State's Kadeem Edwards and Demetrius Rhaney, were selected in May's NFL Draft.

By conference:

MEAC: 28
SWAC: 18

NameTeamPosExp. CollegeConf.
Edawn CoughmanBuffalo BillsOT1ShawCIAA
Kevin ElliottBuffalo BillsWR3FAMUMEAC
Kendrick EllisNY JetsDT4HamptonMEAC
Dimitri PattersonNY JetsDB9TuskegeeSIAC
Jacoby JonesBaltimore Ravens WR8LaneSIAC
Anthony LevineBaltimore Ravens S3Tennessee St.OVC
Deji OlatoyeBaltimore Ravens CBRNC A&TMEAC
David MimsBaltimore Ravens T1Virginia UnionCIAA
LaKendrick RossCincinnati BengalsDTRVUL
Jourdan BrooksCleveland BrownsRB1Morgan State MEAC
Isaiah CrowellCleveland BrownsRBRAlabama StateSWAC
Qua CoxIndianapolis ColtsCBRJackson StateSWAC
Robert MathisIndianapolis ColtsDE12Alabama A&MSWAC
Greg MooreIndianapolis ColtsWRRLaneSIAC
Greg TolerIndianapolis ColtsDB6St. Paul'sCIAA
Ryan DavisJacksonville JaguarsDE2Bethune-CookmanMEAC
Jerome JuniorJacksonville JaguarsSRWinston-Salem StCIAA
Jordan MillerJacksonville JaguarsDT1SouthernSWAC
Chigbo AnunobyTennessee TitansDL1MorehouseSIAC
Sammie HillTennessee TitansDL6StillmanSWAC
Micah PellerinTennessee TitansDB2HamptonMEAC
Rico RichardsonTennessee TitansWR1Jackson StateSWAC
Marcus DixonTennessee TitansDE3HamptonMEAC
Carlos Fields Oakland RaidersLBRWinston-Salem StCIAA
Greg JenkinsOakland RaidersWR1Alabama StateSWAC
Marquette KingOakland RaidersP 2Fort Valley StateSIAC
Marshall McFadden Oakland RaidersLB1South Carolina StMEAC
Adrian HamiltonSan Diego ChargersLB2Prairie View SWAC
Justin DurantDallas CowboysLB8HamptonMEAC
Jakar Hamilton Dallas CowboysS1South Carolina StMEAC
Larry DonnellNY GiantsTE 2Grambling StSWAC
Rogers GainesNY GiantsOT1Tennessee St.OVC
Travis HarveyNY GiantsWR1FAMUMEAC
Jamal Johnson-WebbNY GiantsOT RAlabama A&MSWAC
Dominique Rodgers-CromartieNY GiantsCB7Tennessee St.OVC
Karim BartonPhiladelphia Eagles GRMorgan State MEAC
Frances MaysPhiladelphia Eagles DERFAMUMEAC
Chris BakerWashington RedskinsDL2HamptonMEAC
Lee DossWashington RedskinsWRRSouthernSWAC
Frank KearseWashington RedskinsDE3Alabama A&MSWAC
Courtney Bridget Jr.Washington RedskinsCBRHamptonMEAC
Jason HatcherWashington RedskinsDE9Grambling StSWAC
Michael OlaChicago BearsOTRHamptonMEAC
Eric WeemsChicago BearsWR8Bethune-CookmanMEAC
Don CareyDetroit LionsS6Norfolk StateMEAC
Brandon HepburnDetroit LionsLB1FAMUMEAC
Rashean MathisDetroit LionsCB11Bethune-CookmanMEAC
Xavier ProctorDetroit LionsDT1NC CentralMEAC
Antonio DennardGreen Bay PackersCB1LangstonNAIA
Joe ThomasGreen Bay PackersLBRSouth Carolina StMEAC
AC LeonardMinnesota VikingsTE RTennessee St.OVC
Terren JonesAtlanta FalconsOT1Alabama StateSWAC
Kimmario McFaddenAtlanta FalconsSRSouth Carolina StMEAC
Alex HallCarolina PanthersDE4St. Augustine'sCIAA
Terron ArmsteadNew Orleans SaintsOT1Arkansas-Pine BluffSWAC
Rafael BushNew Orleans SaintsS4South Carolina StMEAC
Junior Gallette New Orleans SaintsLB5StillmanSIAC
Kadeem EdwardsTampa Bay BucsGRTennessee St.OVC
Keith LewisTampa Bay BucsCBRVUL
Marcus BenardArizona CardinalsLB5Jackson State SWAC
William HayesSt. Louis RamsDE7Winston-Salem StCIAA
Kendall LangfordSt. Louis RamsDE7HamptonMEAC
Demetrius Rhaney St. Louis RamsCRTennessee St.OVC
Antoine BetheaSan Francisco 49ersS9HowardMEAC
Adam Phillips Seattle SeahawksCB5South Carolina StMEAC
RaShaun AllenSeattle SeahawksTE RSouthernSWAC
Nate Isles Seattle SeahawksGRNC A&TMEAC
Ricardo LocketteSeattle SeahawksWR4Fort Valley StateSIAC
Tavaris JacksonSeattle SeahawksQB9Alabama StateSWAC

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Checking In: HBCU Stars Make Training Camp Debuts

(AP Photo)

We've reached the late July, which in the NFL world means the start of training camp. In addition to the dozens of veterans returning to their camps, several rookies are looking to make an impression at their first camp. Let's check in with a few.

(Tampabay.com photo)

Kadeem Edwards, Tampa Bay

The highest drafted HBCU player in the 2014 Draft has a good chance of starting at guard for the Bucs...or at least being in the discussion. An injury has kept the former All-Pro guard from practicing since last season, and Edwards figures to be one of a half dozen players battling for time on the interior line. 

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland 

The gifted running back from Alabama State by way of UGA is part of a crowded Cleveland Browns backfield. Few question the UDFA's talent, but with his time at Georgia still being held against him by many, he's going to have to earn everything. Dawgs By Nature's Mike Krupka writes: 

"Having the chance to prove himself might be just what he needs. As an UDFA, he represents no risk, but the reward could be huge. He arguably was one of the most talented RB in the class this year so if he can change how he approaches the game on the field and his decisions off it, he is going to be a valuable asset to this team and has the talent to dominate the AFC North."

A.C. Leonard, Minnesota

Like Crowell, former Tennessee State star A.C. Leonard didn't go undrafted because of marginal talent. The shadow of the former Florida Gator's legal issues played a big role in him not getting selected. Still, Leonard has reportedly shown great ability to get open against the defenders he's been up against so far.

(USA Today photo)

Carlos Fields, Oakland Raiders 

The two-time All-American faces an uphill climb in Oakland with a loaded linebacker corps, including fellow rookie Khalil Mack. But the release of veteran Kevin Burnett means he's one step closer. Fields won't really get to showcase his ability until the Raiders put pads on Sunday.

Qua Cox, Indianapolis Colts
The former Jackson State cornerback looks to have as good of a chance to make his team as any UDFA on this list. Stampedeblue.com's Josh Williams said Cox came into training camp with a buzz:

"[Cox] looks to make a strong push for a roster spot, and the way he's been playing so far this offseason for the Colts proves that there's a real chance of that happening. He is a great prospect to keep around and a guy who can do well as a slot corner if needed this year. He'll make a strong push in camp for a roster spot."
(PBS photo)

Lee Doss, Washington Redskins

Cox's former SWAC rival, Lee Doss, has already had some memorable moments in Redskins camp. The former Southern star enters camp on the outside looking in, but a couple more grabs like that in practice and in preseason games could change that quickly.

Jerome Junior, Jacksonville Jaguars 

Like Crowell and Leonard, Junior started his career in the FBS at UConn before finishing up at Winston-Salem State in 2013. Most experts consider him a long shot to stick with Jacksonville. Here's what BigCatCountry.com's Jackson McD had to say about Junior.

"It was hard to tell what we got with Jerome Junior. He was solid at UConn but never really showed anything special. i don't expect him to make the Jaguar's roster."

Friday, July 25, 2014

Sweetness: The World Remembers Payton

It's been nearly 15 years since Walter Payton left this earth, but the man known as Sweetness is still on the minds of many. From television to social media, people around the world remembered the former Jackson State star on what would have been his 60th birthday.

“Obviously this would have been a big birthday for him, turning 60 this year,” his daughter Brittney told the Chicago Tribune on Friday. “I just think he would be so proud, and I am sure he is watching down and proud of that (milestone birthday) as a proud grandfather. It just would be a special day.”

Check out this video featuring his highlights as a record-setting career at JSU, courtesy of Fox Sports.

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About Me

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Steven J. Gaither is a multimedia journalist and founder of HBCU Gameday. Steven began covering HBCU Sports nearly a decade ago as a student at Winston-Salem State University. His work can also be found at The Shadow League, Diverse Issues In Higher Education and Slam Online.