Following the conclusion of the 2023 NFL Draft, Deion Sanders, the former NFL All-Pro and current University of Colorado Boulder head football coach expressed his dissatisfaction with the league for overlooking talent from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Sanders’ connection to HBCUs runs deep, having coached at Jackson State prior to his position at Colorado.
Despite his successful tenure at Jackson State, where he led the team to back-to-back division championships and bowls, only one of his former players, cornerback and return specialist Isaiah Bolden, was drafted this year. Bolden was picked up by the New England Patriots at the 245th spot out of 259. It’s interesting to note that the Patriots, often accused of having a “racist” fan base, were the team to select the sole HBCU player in this year’s draft.
Sanders took to Twitter to congratulate Bolden and simultaneously criticize the 31 other NFL teams for not recognizing the value of HBCU athletes in the draft. He mentioned that there were three more draft-worthy players at Jackson State alone.
While the 2023 NFL Draft saw only one HBCU athlete selected, it’s worth noting that the draft featured three black quarterbacks being taken in the first four picks, with the top 10 picks overall all being black athletes. The most scrutinized fall in the draft belonged to University of Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, the first white quarterback taken in the draft, who dropped to the 33rd spot overall.
Though the draft is over, there’s still hope for HBCU athletes who went undrafted. The NFL has a strong market for undrafted rookies, giving them the chance to make their way into the league. Sanders’ call to action highlights the need for more recognition of the talent that HBCUs produce, ensuring that future drafts don’t overlook these gifted athletes.