Now that the SWAC and MEAC are full steam ahead in playing spring football in 2021, it’s unlikely the National Football League will change its procedures concerning the combine, individual workouts, and other league sanctioned events that target possible draftees.
NFL hopefuls and prospects must now make some business decisions going forward. Below are some potential HBCU players with NFL aspirations who may have to evaluate the decision to play spring football in 2021.
Harry Ballard, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Wide Receiver
Ballard took the JUCO route before eventually landing at UAPB, where he would go on to be among the conference leaders in receptions during the 2019 season. He has ideal size and strength at 6-3, 205 pounds. And with 52 receptions for 938 yards and ten touchdowns, Ballard has the attention of NFL scouts. Ballard could solidify his status with another great year but could playing in the spring squander an opportunity for a ballclub to put him through the process now?
Mac McCain, North Carolina A&T, Defensive Back
Franklin “Mac” McCain is the Jacque Vaughn of HBCU Football. He has seemingly been around forever. This three-year starter at defensive back for the Aggies has caught the eye of many within the professional ranks as he has had two first team All-MEAC honors along with a second team All-MEAC selection last season. Durability has been an issue with McCain, having his season cut short by injury, but this season could have been the display needed to leave no doubt about whether he should be drafted. This 6-0, 175 pounder has the speed, instincts, and experience to play at the next level, but would playing in the spring give more opportunity for injury?
Aqeel Glass, Alabama A&M, Quarterback
Aqeel Glass has absolutely torched the SWAC from his quarterback position, leading the conference in completions, attempts, and yards. At 6-4, 215, Glass has the ideal size and arm strength to play at the next level. He has the mobility to elude defenders, throw on the run, and stay in front of the chains. Despite having excellent mobility, he is a classic thrower of the football. He will take the short and intermediate throws not to make the big mistake. Quarterbacks coming from HBCUs have a hard road, but Glass has all the potential to play professionally. One more dynamic season could be just what he needs, but has he done enough to forgo it?
Jah-Maine Martin, North Carolina A&T, Running Back
For the past two seasons, Jah-Maine Martin has left his mark on HBCU Football. The 5-10, 214-pound thumper showed the potential of a possible NFL career after transferring from Coastal Carolina in 2018. However, in 2019 Martin would take the world by storm by rushing for over 1200 yards and 20 touchdowns. As a running back, he has good size for the next level and has shown the ability to run in both zone and man blocking schemes with the ability to stick his foot in the ground and get vertical in one step or display patience to set up his lineman. He possesses the ability to break away from defenders in the 2nd and 3rd levels despite being considered not having top-end speed. Martin has turned heads with his play on some very large stages, but with the position he plays, is playing in the spring worth the risk?
For all these top prospects that have dreams of playing in the NFL, it is natural to wonder if playing in the spring will jeopardize their draft status. There have been players at PWI’s who regularly sat out bowl games to get ready for the NFL, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that prospects in the HBCU ranks will do whatever they need to do to prepare for that showcase? Regardless of what these few decide to do, having HBCU football is always a great thing.
Jamie Walker is the CEO of CoachWork Media Enterprises where he serves as a play-by-play/PA voice, color analyst, and reporter for HBCU Sports, The Atlanta Voice The SIAC, and Heritage Sports Radio Network. Follow him on Twitter @CoachWorkSports.