In 2021, the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the NFL joined forces to host the 2022 HBCU Combine in Mobile, Alabama. Created in 2022 by the Black College Football Hall of Fame, the HBCU Legacy Bowl showcase gathers the best talent from historically black colleges and universities to faceoff live on NFL Network from the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.
As they are at every showcase of draft-eligible talent, the Seahawks will be represented at the HBCU Legacy Bowl this weekend by a group that includes senior director of player personnel Matt Berry.
To know where you're going, you have to know your history - and in this case, that's recognizing Seattle's storied history in finding talent at black colleges.
In the 1976 NFL Expansion Draft, the first-year Seattle Seahawks selected running back Andrew (Andy) Bolton of Fisk University, which became the first African American institution to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1930. The President of the NFL Alumni Association broke the barrier for black college players in Seattle - but he certainly wasn't the last.
From Seahawks Legends like wideout Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State) and corner Dwayne Harper (South Carolina State) to the late-Tarvaris Jackson (Alabama State), Seattle's history of providing black college players with an opportunity goes back more than five decades. In September, the team claimed defensive end and North Carolina A&T alum Darryl Johnson off waivers. Johnson suffered a season-ending foot injury in October, but was making his mark prior to the injury, stepping into the starting lineup at outside linebacker. With that in mind, here are eight players to watch in the she second-annual HBCU Legacy Bowl, which will air live on NFL Network on February 25 at 1 p.m.
Editor's note: This list is the evaluation of the author, Maliik Obee, who is the founder of drafthbcuplayers.com, and is not meant to be a representation of the Seahawks' draft evaluations.
Xavier Smith, WR, Florida A&M
From a non-scholarship walk-on to one of the most decorated wideouts in FCS football, FAMU wideout Xavier Smith was a 2022 Walter Payton Award Finalist. Since 2019, Smith caught 25 touchdowns on 228 receptions for over 2800 yards, averaging just under 7 receptions per game. Lining up both outside and in the slot, Smith wreaked havoc in the SWAC conference with his blazing speed and ability to create separation. So far Smith's earned the attention of NFL Network analyst and Carolina Panthers Legend Steve Smith Sr., who spoke highly of the graduate student on his Scouting Services segment on Wednesday evening.
"This boy got a 6th and 7th gear," said Smith Sr. "He can go."
Smith has proven he can beat defenses over the top, as well as east-west with his lateral quickness. At 5-foot-10, Smith plays much bigger than his measurements entail, with body control and lateral quickness to beat defenders in the open field.
Andrew Farmer, edge, Lane College
Seattle has scoured the Division II ranks for decades, with Lenoir-Rhyne alum and 2022 seventh-round selection Dareke Young being the team's latest find. Lane College defensive end Andrew Farmer accumulated 44.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks over the last two seasons for the Dragons, earning a 2022 Hula Bowl selection before being selected by the Michigan Panthers in the eighth round of Tuesday’s USFL College Draft. The 6-foot-3,250-pound edge rusher has garnered plenty of attention during his time in New Orleans, thanks to a great physique coupled with great athleticism. Farmer wowed teams at this week's HBCU Combine with his 38-inch vertical jump and 4.72-second 40 time.
Joshua Pryor, DT/edge, Bowie State
Bowie State defensive lineman Joshua Pryor became the NCAA all-time tackles for loss record-holder on the way to earning the 2022 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Defensive Player of the Year honor.
The two-time Senior Bowl watch list nominee helped Bowie State earn three-consecutive CIAA Championships between 2018-21 on the way to several NCAA Division II playoff appearances. Look for Pryor to line up, and win, from a variety of positions on the defensive line Saturday with a combination of strength and speed.
Alfonzo Graham, RB, Morgan State
Morgan State running back Alfonzo Graham burst onto the FCS scene in 2021 after transferring from Fullerton College. In 2022, Graham finished amongst the top rushers in the country with 1,150 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns. The 5-foot-8 back combines home-run speed with solid contact balance and receiving abilities to create a dynamic threat in the backfield. He caught 31 passes over the last two seasons as a Bear.
Dion Golatt Jr., QB, Bowie State
Bowie State quarterback DJ Golatt looks to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the HBCU Combine and Legacy Bowl, after one year as a starter for the Bulldogs. The Morgan State graduate transfer hit his stride in 2022, leading the CIAA in passing yards (2,649), completions (207) and completion percentage (61%). A true dual-threat quarterback, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Golatt is a quick-thinker with his brain and quick with his feet. Golatt has a silky-smooth game under center, with a solid arm and accuracy to hit receivers in the sweet spots.
Brandon Barnes-Brown, CB, Fayetteville State
In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Super Bowl LVII Champion Kansas City Chiefs selected Fayetteville State cornerback Joshua Williams in the fourth round. 2022 CIAA Champion and Senior Bowl watchlist corner Brandon Barnes-Brown looks to shine at the Legacy Bowl in hopes of joining his former teammate in the NFL. A ballhawk in the truest since, Barnes-Brown accumulated 13 interceptions and 31 pass deflections in his career with the Broncos. The 5-foot-10, 200-pound corner is sticky in press coverage, closing out his career with a game-sealing interception in the CIAA Championship against Chowan University. Barnes-Brown is a physical, speedy corner that can play inside or on the boundary.
Robert Mitchell, OL, North Carolina Central
After battling through injuries as a junior, North Carolina Central guard Robert Mitchell went out with a bang. The 2022 MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Year helped the Eagles defeat Jackson State to win the Celebration Bowl, Black College Football's National Championship in December. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder didn't allow a single sack for the MEAC's highest-scoring offense (38 ppg).
De'Jahn Warren, CB, Jackson State
In 2021, Jackson State University landed the No.1 Junior college defensive back transfer in Lackawanna College corner De'Jahn Warren. Under former coach Deion Sanders' tutelage, the man known as "Nugget" quickly became one of the Southwestern Athletic Conference's (SWAC) most-dangerous defensive backs. The 6-foot, 180-pound Warren is a phenomenal athlete, being utilized on both kick and punt returns in addition to frontrunning the Tigers' secondary. With the ability to shut down receivers in both press and zone coverages as well as tackle in open-field, Warren can help his draft stock Saturday with a solid performance.