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HBCU Players to Watch in This Year's Reese's Senior Bowl, NFLPA Bowl, and East-West Shrine Game

Updated: Jan 8, 2022

6'3 Fayetteville Cornerback Joshua Williams Will Look to Prove He Can Compete with the Best at This Year's Reese's Senior Bowl.

The HBCU College Football season is over and with it ends the college football journey of many soon to be pro athletes. While some athletes have reserved to begin long exciting careers in areas other than sports, many of the most exciting and dominate players in all of HBCU football will be fighting for a chance to join an NFL roster this spring. Last year, due to the pandemic, limited access to players, and one of the smallest draft pools in recent history due to eligibility restrictions, zero HBCU players were drafted in the 2021 draft. The NFL, spearheaded by HBCU legend Doug Williams has responded with the development of the HBCU Legacy Bowl. This is the first HBCU Senior All-Star Football Game that will be broadcasted on NFL Network, and based on the support it is receiving, it should be a stellar event in New Orleans, LA. Over 70 players have accepted invitations to the inaugural event, and you can find the roster for the game here, Players | HBCU Legacy Bowl .

This article will highlight players that have accepted invitations to either the Reese's Senior Bowl, The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, or The East-West Shrine Game. The Senior Bowl will garner a lot more attention than usual in the opinion of some scouts as it will host one of the most important battles of the NFL Draft season. Unlike last season where there was a clear number 1 prospect at the quarterback position in Trevor Lawrence of Clemson. This year the top is a bit cloudier, and a few candidates vying for that top spot will be attending the Senior Bowl hoping to distance themselves from the competition. Sam Howell of North Carolina, Malik Willis of Liberty University, Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh, and Carson Strong of Nevada are all quarterbacks that will head to Mobile, AL looking to show that they are worthy of the number one pick in this year's draft. They will have to prove that against one of the most physically imposing cornerbacks in this year's draft, 1st Team All-Conference CIAA cornerback Jousha Williams of Fayetteville State. Joshua Williams is currently the only HBCU player on the Senior Bowl roster, but his 6'3 197lb frame will be hard to miss amongst some of the nation's top seniors. According to scouts, Williams has excellent feet, fluid hips, and great size for the position. Wiliams will have to prove that his has the speed and the technique to stand out during senior bowl week practices and the game.

The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be hosted in the beautiful state of California this year and will have a few more familiar HBCU faces on the roster. Two players from the SWAC Champion Jackson State Tigers have accepted invitations to this year's NFLPA Bowl, including Division 1 FCS sack master, James Houston, and defensive back CJ Holmes. James Houston was second in sacks this year in the FCS and took home a plethora of honors on his way to his first and only SWAC championship. The 6'1, 185 CJ Holmes played well this season finishing the year with 40 total tackles, 7 pass breakups, and an interception. Holmes and Houston anchored one of the best defenses in the SWAC holding every team they faced under 21 points, until they face South Carolina State in the Celebration Bowl.

Markquese Bell of Florida A&M has all the physical tools to make for a star at the next level. He stands at nearly 6'3, 205lbs, and is projected to run a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash. Bell was a leader on Florida A&M's defense, and he did some of his best work against the best competition, as he stood out on film in Florida A&M's final game against Southeastern Louisiana. If Bell stands out during his time in California, he could easily hear his name called on draft day.

Both James Houston and Markquese Bell will have a very busy off-season as they will both have accepted invitations to both the NFLPA Bowl and The East-West Shrine Game. Besides the HBCU Legacy the East-West Shrine game will host the most HBCU players this off-season. Five players from HBCUs will be playing in this year's game. Joining Houston and Bell will be, Offensive Lineman Ja'Tyre Carter of Southern University, Defensive Lineman De'Shaan Dixon of Norfolk State, and Decobie Durant of the Black National Championship Team, The South Carolina State Bulldogs. Carter was named second team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference this season, after helping the Jaguars post a rushing yard average of over 200 yards per game in conference play. The 6'5, 275lb redshirt junior, is actually forgoing his senior year to pursue his opportunity to play at the next level. He will have to prove that he can stand out amongst FBS defensive line competition at the Shrine Bowl.

A preseason first-team All-MEAC selection, Defensive Lineman De'Shaan Dixon led the MEAC in sacks and tackles for loss with 9 total sacks and 12.5 total tackles for loss. Dixon will have to prove to scouts that at 235lbs he can be a terror for opposing quarterbacks. Finally, Decobie Durant, who drew rave reviews from Coach Deion Sanders after his Bulldogs terrorized Shedeur Sanders in the Celebration Bowl. Durant does not have the imposing size of a Jousha Williams or a Bell, at 5'11, but he does have an intimidating burst when blitzing opposing quarterbacks and a knack to make plays on defense.

Durant was named the 2021 MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, A First Team All-American by the Associated Press, and the Cricket Celebration Bowl Defensive MVP. Durant should not find the FBS competition intimidating as he did some of his best work against nationally ranked Clemson earlier this season. The East-West Shrine game will take place in Las Vegas on February 3rd.

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