Deion Sanders Doubles Down and Rips the NFL Draft Process for HBCU Players: ‘That’s Not Fair’

Deion Sanders played college football at Florida State, but now he’s trying to level the playing field. When he accepted the job as the head coach at Jackson State in 2020, the Pro Football Hall of Famer vowed to bring well-deserved attention to HBCU athletic programs.

While schools like Jackson State feature talented players, they usually don’t receive the same level of attention as kids from Power Five FBS programs. After putting the 10 NFL teams on blast that didn’t attend the Tigers’ Pro Day, Sanders isn’t letting up.

Now, the six-time All-Pro cornerback has a suggestion to make the NFL Draft process fairer for all the pro prospects.

Deion Sanders rips the NFL for holding two separate Scouting Combines

Zero HBCU players got selected during the 2021 NFL Draft. While the league has made some strides, it still has a long way to go to afford more equitable opportunities to athletes from those programs.

In an effort to bring more light to HBCU football, the Reese’s Senior Bowl hosted the HBCU Combine in January. Several talented guys received the opportunity to work out in front of pro scouts. Even though the event seems to have the right intentions, Deion Sanders doesn’t think that’s the best way to promote diversity and inclusion.

In a recent appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, Sanders revealed a plan to fix the disparity in the draft process for notable FBS programs versus HBCUs.

“What I’m trying to do,” Sanders said. “I don’t like the separatism, Rich, and I don’t like, you’ve got a black combine, then you’ve got the combine combine. I don’t like that. Let’s just have one combine. With the black combine, you have 64 kids or 52 kids. I’ve done the math. There’s only like four or five more kids a position. We got time for five more kids a position, got time for five more 40s. We got time for five more bench presses at each position. That’s easy.”

“Instead of having it separate, let’s just involve the kids from HBCUs. Instead of having two darn separate combines, which 20 percent of the people that showed up at the real combine show up at the HBCU combine. That’s not fair, not fair at all.”

Recruiting has taken a step forward for HBCUs since Coach Prime arrived at Jackson State

Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders looks on before HBCU bowl game
Jackson State head football coach Deion Sanders during warmups before facing South Carolina State in the Cricket Celebration Bowl | David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s a significant disparity in the attention HBCU schools get compared to their Power Five and Group of Five counterparts. From the funding to the television time, it’s apples and oranges. However, Deion Sanders believes he can evoke a real change.

Being a former NFL superstar, Sanders’ name holds weight and means something for young players heading into college. As a result, Jackson State has been able to lure some recruits it usually wouldn’t in years past. The Tigers landed two players in the ESPN300 for the Class of 2022. Five-star cornerback Travis Hunter and wide receiver Kevin Coleman headline the class.

While other HBCU programs may not be recruiting at the same level as Sanders and company, some big-time players are thinking twice before committing to a school.

If notable talents continue to flock to HBCUs, it seems to be only a matter of time before they hear their name called in the NFL Draft.

“Everything is getting better,” said Deion Sanders. “And I’m going to continue pushing the envelope. Everything helps because these guys deserve this attention and this focus, and they can flat out play.”

HBCU players to watch in the 2022 NFL Draft

Just because HBCU schools don’t get much airtime doesn’t mean they don’t have NFL-caliber talent on their rosters. The 2022 NFL Draft class features multiple players who could end up on a roster.

North Carolina A&T running back Jah-Maine Martin headlines the crop. He took college football by storm in 2019, rushing for 1,246 yards and 20 touchdowns on 151 carries. His production dipped in 2021, mainly due to a knee injury he was playing through.

Virginia State defensive back Will Adams reportedly stole the show at the HBCU Combine. He posted a 4.57 40-yard dash, 10-foot-3 broad jump, 40.5-inch vertical, and 21 bench press reps.

Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass is the best HBCU quarterback in the class. The four-year starter threw for 3,568 yards, 36 touchdowns, and seven interceptions in 2021.

As Deion Sanders suggested, the NFL has a long way to go before HBCUs get their proper respect. Still, seeing some of these players get a closer look could go a long way.

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