Moving the HBCU Reconnaissance Combine to Mobile Could Make All the Difference
Some ideas make so much sense that you wonder what took so long to come to fruition.
Take this week’s announcement that a true HBCU Combine Scouting, originally slated for Miami in March 2020 before Covid-19 causes its cancellation, will debut at the end of next January in Mobile, Ala.
Fifty draft-eligible candidates will be invited from four conferences – CIAA, MEAC, SIAC and SWAC – and other historically black colleges and universities. They’ll spend two days training in Mobile ahead of Senior Bowl week, a vital part of the NFL pre-draft schedule.
The idea even makes perfect sense in terms of logistics, as Alabama is home to more HBCU football programs than any other state. A smaller version of the event was held April 9-10 at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, but it didn’t lead to any HBCU products being developed three weeks later.
“It’s something we’ve been talking about for over a year now,” Jim Nagy, executive director of Senior Bowl, told Fox 10 News TV. “Getting an NFL sanctioned event in Mobile was really a big deal. Our game is not even an NFL sanctioned event.
Hopes are high that this will raise the profile of professional prospects worthy if not at risk of being overlooked by Professional Scouts. The more impressive candidates might even be invited to stick around for Senior Bowl week, Nagy said.
“It’s a big deal,” Nagy said. “It’s about providing a great platform for all of those HBCU players that might fall through the cracks, providing them with a platform where we know the 32 teams are going to be in Mobile for the Senior Bowl.
The idea is for the HBCU 50 to go through “a full-scale combination event as (other players) arrive in Indianapolis” in late February / early March, Nagy said. The evaluation will be carried out throughout the fall by an HBCU selection committee made up of current and former league leaders.
Once players arrive at the University of South Alabama, the HBCU Combine will essentially be a shortened model of the traditional NFL Scouting Combine. Medical exams, personality tests and interviews with the team and the media will highlight the two-day whirlwind of exertion with the usual physical measures and the battery of exercises.
Only one HBCU product, Tennessee state guard Lachavious Simmons was selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he was a seventh-round pick at that. Cut off from training camp with the Chicago Bears, Simmons eventually latched onto the team’s training squad and made a start last season.
Nagy wasted no time in contacting Troy Vincent, executive vice president of NFL football operations, after the first league-sponsored HBCU handset was wiped out last spring.
“I jumped on the phone with Troy Vincent,” Nagy said. “I said, ‘Troy, you have to take this to Mobile. This event must be here. We’re in the heart of HBCU country, and he loved the idea. So here we are a little over a year later.