One North Carolina Central student-athlete and a duo of South Carolina State Bulldogs were selected in this year’s NFL Draft. If only had the three standout HBCU athletes played at a bigger conference, perhaps, they would have been picked higher in the draft. At least that is what the Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive line coach John Mitchell and others thinks. Here’s what people are saying.
Ryan Smith, North Carolina Central
The one word to best describe NCCU’s standout cornerback Ryan Smith: “versatile.” But that’s not all Smith can do and at a top level, the Bucs 108th pick is a “quality athlete” the team can depend on in their secondary.
On Saturday, NCCU coach Jerry Mack said Smith has “top-end speed” and doesn’t mind breaking tackles on the field:
“He’s going to come to Tampa Bay with a level of professionalism that probably exceeds a lot of his peers because he’s been doing it for so long. He has a lot of versatility as far as what he can help a football team do.”
After leaving the black college to play in the NFL, Smith has added some 30 pounds, showing he has the mental discipline and the work ethic athletes need to play at the next level:
“He’s going to put in the extra time to work on his craft. He’s going to study the film and make sure he takes care of his body.”
South Carolina State’s All-Americans Javon Hargrave and Temarrick Hemingway
Javon Hargrave and Temarrick Hemingway were the first and third HBCU player selected in the NFL Draft. Over the years, SCSU has produced some of the most remarkable and quality players in the NFL including three NFL Hall of Famers David “Deacon” Jones (1980), Marion Motely (1968) and Harry Carson (2006). Hargrave and Hemingway are no exception.
(The bulldogs has more NFL Hall of Famers than any other university in the state of South Carolina, by the way.)
Hargrave is the perfect match for the rowdy and tough Pittsburgh Steelers. The “pass-happy tackle” will probably see action on the field earlier on:
“Steelers played a true nose tackle less than 40 percent of the snaps last season because of the league’s passing trends. That’s why Hargrave’s pass-rush ability makes sense here,” writes Jeremy Fowler at ESPN.
“I can be on the field 30 or 50 plays. That’s how I’ve been my whole life,” Hargrave said. “Of course that’s a plus, being able to stay on the field that long, play every down.” Hargrave didn’t qualify academically out of high school, forcing him to a small school. “I had to take a different route.”
Bleacher Report grades the St. Louis 177th pick and tight end Hemingway a B, saying “he presents a big opportunity in the red zone and up the seam” and overall is really a good fit for the team:
“Hemingway plays to his strengths and uses his tools well. He has excellent initial quickness and explodes off the line like he’s chasing someone. As a route-runner, Hemingway has quick feet and loose hips. He can use a head or shoulder fake to shake defensive backs and sets up his stem well.”
Hemingway is “not NFL-ready right away but has the triangle numbers (height, weight, speed) and length to excite coaches in the later rounds,” Bleacher Report reported.