NFL scouting combine is here. But there was another you may have missed: the HBCU combine

In February for Black History Month, USA TODAY Sports is publishing the series "29 Black Stories in 29 Days." We examine the issues, challenges and opportunities Black athletes and sports officials continue to face after the nation’s reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. This is the fourth installment of the series.

You're likely familiar with the NFL scouting combine which begins this week. What you may not know is there was another combine that happened recently: the HBCU combine. reported that all 32 teams were at the combine, held last week, which is for players from historically Black colleges and universities. The week ended with the HBCU Legacy Bowl in New Orleans.

Doug Williams, co-founder of the Legacy Bowl, said he felt the combine week and subsequent game went well.

Marcus Riley from Florida A&M does the vertical jump at the 2024 HBCU combine.
Marcus Riley from Florida A&M does the vertical jump at the 2024 HBCU combine.

"I feel good," Williams said. "No. 1, with the product on the field, but also I feel good that people came out to see these young men. I think that's what it's all about. Everybody (likes) a crowd, they got a chance to play in front of crowd. They got a chance to show what they can do."

Much of the combine was broadcast on the NFL Network. It was actually good television and introduced the viewer to players many might not have known.

Which leads to a question: why is all of this important?

HBCU players remain a resource that the NFL still sometimes ignores. There's a remarkable piece of data from last year that illustrates this. There was just one player from an HBCU drafted last year.

Since 2000, as USA TODAY Sports noted last year, no HBCU player has been taken in nine drafts. None were selected in 2021.

Does this mean HBCU players aren't as good as those at say Michigan or Alabama? The issue is actually a larger one than that. The NFL hasn't traditionally invested heavily in scouting HBCUs, so in some ways those players get left behind.

One player that broke through was Andrew Farmer, who went to Lane College and is now with the Los Angeles Chargers. Farmer told Andscape that the combine and Legacy Bowl opened NFL doors for him.

“The opportunity to come to the HBCU combine is everything,” Farmer said. “I was able to show scouts how explosive I was, how fast I was, that I’m a good person [with] good character, an intelligent player. I talked to almost every team after my combine, so it was definitely a blessing.”

This is why the HBCU combine is so vital. It's not an elixir but the combine, in its third year, is still one of the best mechanisms to make sure the NFL doesn't forget all of the talent that's out there.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: HBCU combine highlights draft prospect resource NFL oftentimes ignores