Bryan Mills, North Carolina Central University
Photo: NCCU Athletics

After a 36-years hiatus, the United States Football League (USFL) announced it would be making a return this year.

The league will see eight teams playing in a 10-week season (each team playing five games) and will be broadcast on FOX Sports and NBC.

The regular season will be played in Protective Stadium and Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama kicking off on April 16 when the hometown Birmingham Stallions face off against the New Jersey Generals.

Over the past two days, the USFL held its draft featuring 35 rounds with each round dedicated to a singular position.

Across the 35 rounds in the USFL draft, there were 16 former HBCU football players selected.

Mekhi Brown, DE Tennessee State

Mekhi Brown, Alabama

The first HBCU player drafted to the USFL was defensive end Mekhi Brown going in the second round with the seventh pick of the second round by the Tampa Bay Bandits.

After spending his first three college seasons with Alabama, Brown transferred to Tennessee State.

He played two seasons with the Tigers recording 45 total tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks.

His final season was cut short after just five games due to suffering a season-ending injury.

Malik Hamner, DE, Jackson State

The second pick of the fourth round, Malik Hamner was taken with the fifth pick by the New Jersey Generals.

Hamner posted 74 total tackles (33 solo tackles), 15.5 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks in his final two seasons with Jackson State.

Nigel Chavis, DE, Norfolk State

Nigel Chavis, Norfolk State
Photo: NSU Athletics

Four picks later, Nigel Chavis was selected by the New Orleans Breakers as the ninth pick in the fourth round.

Chavis played for the Norfolk State Spartans from 2016 to 2019 where he was named to three All-MEAC teams (two first-team selections).

He finished with 315 total tackles (149 solo tackles), 37.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks, 11 passes defended, two interceptions and six forced fumbles in 45 career games.

Chidi Okeke, OT, Tennessee State

The first offensive lineman taken in the USFL Draft, Chidi Okeke was selected with the first pick of the fifth round by the Pittsburgh Maulers.

Okeke spent his first two college seasons with LSU before transferring to Tennessee State in 2017.

He was named to the All-OVC first team in his senior season playing a big role in the Tigers offense ranking in the top 20 in the country.

Also read: Tennessee State QB Geremy Hickbottom shines in HBCU Legacy Bowl

Calvin Ashley, OT, Florida A&M

Calvin Ashley was taken off the board by the New Jersey Generals drafting him with the third pick in the sixth round.

Known more for his time with Auburn where he played three seasons, Ashley transferred to Florida A&M where he played for one season in 2019.

In that season, the Rattlers were among the top offensive teams in the country led by MEAC Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Ryan Stanley.

They finished with a 9-2 overall record (7-1 conference record) but did not get a Celebration Bowl bid due to being ineligible for the postseason.

Joshua Taylor, OT, Mississippi Valley State

Joshua Taylor was the final offensive tackle taken in the draft going to the Michigan Panthers with the final pick of the seventh round.

Taylor played his first three college seasons with Saint Francis (PA) before transferring to Mississippi Valley State where he played this past season.

He was invited to play in the 2021 FCS National Bowl.

Terrell Bonds, CB, Tennessee State

Kicking off the ninth round of the USFL Draft, Terrell Bonds was selected by the Pittsburgh Maulers.

Bonds played his college career with the Tennessee State Tigers recording 95 total tackles (72 solo tackles), 10 interceptions, 30 passes defended and three forced fumbles in 41 games.

After college, Bonds played in the lone season of the now-defunct Alliance of American Football (AAF) with the Memphis Express.

He went on to the NFL signing with the Baltimore Ravens playing six games in the 2020 season. Most recently, he was signed by the Miami Dolphins prior to the 2021 season but was waived before he could play a game.

Bryan Mills, CB, North Carolina Central

Bryan Mills, North Carolina Central
Photo: KeShawn Ennis/NCCU Athletics

Bryan Mills was taken with the seventh pick in the 10th round of the CFL Draft by the Birmingham Stallions.

Transferring to North Carolina Central from College of the Canyons in California, Mills played just one season with the Eagles.

In that season, Mills led the MEAC with five interceptions and ranked second with 13 passes defended. He was named to the All-MEAC first team and the AFCA FCS Coaches All-American second team.

Although he never played a game in the NFL, he has been around with many teams’ practice squads. These teams include the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings.

De’Andre Johnson, QB, Texas Southern

The only HBCU quarterback and the first offensive skills player taken in the USFL Draft, De’Andre Johnson was selected by the New Jersey Generals with the fifth pick in the 12th round.

Johnson was featured in season two of the Last Chance U documentary during his time with East Mississippi Community College.

He transferred to Florida Atlantic but struggled with blood clots in his first season with the team forcing him to sit out after playing just one game.

After sticking with Florida Atlantic for one more season, Johnson transferred to Texas Southern in 2019 playing just one year with the team.

In 11 games, he threw for 1,926 passing yards completing 60% of his passes scoring 10 touchdowns while adding 187 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Peyton Ramzy, WR, Tuskegee

Peyton Ramzy was the first of three receivers to be taken with the last pick of the 16th round to the Birmingham Stallions.

Ramzy played with Tuskegee from 2015-2019 (sat out 2016 season) including a 2017 season in which the team won the SIAC conference championship.

He finished his career with the Golden Tigers recording 65 receptions, 1,337 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Manasseh Bailey, WR, Morgan State

From the last pick in the 16th round to the first pick in the 17th round, Manasseh Bailey was also drafted by the Birmingham Stallions.

After seeing limited action as a freshman with just two receptions for 48 yards in nine games, Bailey got significant playing time in his final three seasons.

He made the most of his opportunity finishing with 115 receptions, 2,031 receiving yards and 21 touchdowns.

Bailey had a brief stint in the NFL signing with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles but was waived before he could play a game with either team.

Chad Williams, WR, Grambling State

Chad Williams, Grambling
Photo: Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images

Chad Williams was the final wide receiver taken in the USFL Draft going to the New Orleans Breakers with the third pick in the 17th round.

Williams played four years with Grambling State tallying 186 receptions and 2,752 receiving yards scoring 24 touchdowns.

In his senior season, he was named to the All-SWAC first team and the FCS All-American second team helping lead the Tigers to the SWAC championship and the Celebration Bowl.

Of all the HBCU players drafted to the USFL, Williams is the only one that was also taken in the NFL Draft being selected as a third-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals.

He spent three years in the NFL with the Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts amassing 20 receptions for 202 receiving yards and a touchdown in 17 games.

He was most recently signed to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020 on their practice squad before being waived prior to the start of the 2021 season.

Sean Brown, C, Mississippi Valley State

Sean Brown is the only HBCU center taken in the draft going to the Philadelphia Stars with the fourth pick of the 20th round.

Brown played two seasons with Nassau Community College before transferring to Mississippi Valley State in 2014.

He played two seasons with the Delta Devils followed by stints in the XFL and the AAF.

Tim Walton Jr., OLB, Texas Southern

One of two HBCU linebackers taken in the USFL Draft, Tim Walton Jr. was selected by the New Jersey Generals with the third pick in the 30th round.

Walton transferred to Texas Southern in 2019 from Syracuse going on to play three seasons with the team.

He posted 51 total tackles (28 solo tackles), 4.0 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles.

Solomon Wise, OLB, Alcorn State

Solomon Wise was the final pick of the 31st round to the Philadelphia Stars. Wise played four seasons with the University of Texas at San Antonio before transferring to Alcorn State prior to the 2021 season.

In his lone season with the Braves, Wise finished with 29.0 total tackles (15 solo tackles), 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack.

Brandon Barnes, TE, Alabama State

The final HBCU player selected in the USFL Draft was Brandon Barnes who went to the Houston Gamblers with the first pick in the 34th round.

Barnes was more of a blocking tight end in his four years with Alabama State only tallying 29 receptions for 436 receiving yards scoring six touchdowns.

He was most recently seen in the AAF playing for the Memphis Express in 2019 and in the XFL in 2020 with the Los Angeles Wildcats.

In those two seasons, Barnes combined for 21 receptions for 208 receiving yards scoring a touchdown.


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