The HBCU Legacy Bowl provides the most talented players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities with an opportunity to pursue their dreams of playing professional football. The game was created in response the 2021 NFL Draft that saw 0 players from HBCUs drafted. Grambling State legend Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and James "Shack" Harris, the first black quarterback to ever start a game in the NFL, decided to start a game highlighting the talent at the HBCU level. This year the HBCU combine, previously held in conjunction with the Senior Bowl, was added to Legacy Bowl week. A few players have stood out but these are the players that we will be keeping an eye on in today's game:
Xavier Smith, WR, FAMU
Last year NOT ONE player grabbed the attention of the entire NFL during the HBCU combine and Legacy Bowl Week. There was some buzz generated by Last Chance U Alum, Kingston Davis, at the event, but that buzz barely left the facility. Xavier Smith is causing a national stir. Steve Wyche highlighted his play in his segment on NFL Network and Steve Smith, legendary WR for the Carolina Panthers, dedicated a segment to him and pleaded for the NFL to invite Smith to the NFL Combine. Smith is definitely worth the buzz, last year he led the SWAC in receptions, yards, touchdowns, receptions per game, and yards per game. In most categories he led by a large margin. For instance, the next closest receiver in receptions was 21 receptions away from catching Smith and 246 yards away in receiving yards. Smith ran a 4.4 at the HBCU combine and put on a clinic in terms of route running. The young man is humble and LEGIT on the field. He is a STAR and most are hoping to see him shine today.
Alfonzo Graham, RB, Morgan State
Graham caught our attention in the Morgan State vs. Norfolk State, when in a losing effort he ran for 203 yards. He led the MEAC in rushing yards, and average rushing yards per game. He finished the season with 1,150 yards rushing and is an absolute burner in the open field. At 5'9, 195 he does not have prototypical size, but his speed and vision may be enough to overcome his lack of size and get him on the radar of some NFL teams. HBCU great and Celebration Bowl legend Tyrik Cohen beat the size odds at 5'6, to make an impact at the NFL level. Alfonzo Graham has the ability to do the same and scouts are on hand to see his speed and playmaking potential.
Jason Dumas DL, Southern
Dumas was an absolute terror in 2021, racking up 16 Tackles for loss only behind, FCS sack leader that year Isaiah Land and the Detroit Lions rookie sack artist James "The Problem" Houston. The difference between Dumas and Land/Houston is that Dumas was doing his damage as a Defensive Tackle, while both Land and Houston plays on the edge. It is a lot tougher to dominate from the interior of the defensive line, but Dumas did it while at Prairie View A&M. This season, after his transfer to Southern, the production that he showed at PV, did not follow him to SU. Southern fans did however get glimpses of the dominance of Dumas , as he was named SWAC Defensive Player of the Week after his game against Arkansas Pine Bluff. In that game he had 5 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. It will be interesting to see, if Dumas is able to dominate the HBCU Legacy Bowl and generate some draft buzz in the process.
Ronnie Thomas, LB, Mississippi Valley State
Going into the season, expectations were high for Ronnie Thomas, as he was clearly the best defensive lineman for the Devils. Thomas did not disappoint. He ended the year with 15 solo tackles for loss and 6 assists. At 6'0, 250 lbs., Thomas is the MVST record holder for sacks in a season with 10.5, ranks 10th among all active FCS players in career Tackles for loss per game, and he ended this season with All-SWAC first team honors. Thomas did most of his damage from the line, as he has state that his strength is his best trait, however at his height and weight, he may be asked to play off-ball and utilize his speed more at the next level. Last year it was at the HBCU combine and the Legacy Bowl where we saw Ladarius Skeleton 2021 QB at Southern try his hand at wide receiver and running back. Could we see Thomas line up in multiple positions to show scouts that he is scheme versatile? It will be something interesting to watch out for during this game.
NFL Network provides exclusive live coverage of the second annual HBCU Legacy Bowl on Saturday, February 25 at 4:00 PM ET. Play-by-play announcer Steve Wyche, analysts Charles Davis and Bucky Brooks, and sideline reporter Sherree Burruss call the game from Tulane University's Yulman Stadium, which showcases the best NFL draft-eligible players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities.