NFL Drafts 1 HBCU Player — There Should’ve Been More?

3 min readMay 11
Photo by Jonathan Bell on Unsplash

Doug Williams was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1978, making him the first black quarterback picked in the first round of the NFL draft. Williams was selected from a historically black college.

During that era, bigotry made black quarterbacks uncommon. However, drafting black players from HBCUs was commonplace. American society was slowly integrating, but racial separation was still ingrained. That meant there was an abundance of talent to be found at HBCUs.

During the 1970s, the NFL drafted 318 players from HBCUs.

In the 1980s, black quarterbacks were still rare, but the few that were drafted came from predominately white Division I schools, instead of HBCUs. After the turn of the century, black quarterbacks were routinely drafted from predominately white Division I schools, becoming the stars of the NFL.

In 2023, two black quarterbacks, Jalen Hurts and Lamar Jackson, signed contracts that made them the highest-paid players in NFL history, and three black quarterbacks were among the top five selections in the first round of the NFL draft.

As the NFL will compensate and draft the finest players, these outcomes were expected. On the other hand, Doug Williams found a reason to complain.

Only one player from an HBCU was drafted by an NFL team in 2023.

Williams believed that at least seven players from HBCUs should have been drafted and stated, “There must be a lack of representation in the draft rooms for this to happen. Do we have anyone fighting for these young men?”

It’s understandable for Williams to have high aspirations for HBCU players, but the odds are stacked against them, not because of a lack of representation in the draft rooms; it all comes down to talent tiers.

The top talent tier in the NCAA is Division I, which is divided into the FBS (televised teams) and the FCS (non-televised teams). There are also NCAA divisions II and III, but it is extremely uncommon for NFL teams to draft players from these lower talent tiers. According to the NCAA, there are 363 division one schools, 313 division two schools, and 442 division three schools. Most schools belong to a conference, but there are power conferences and…


J. Pharoah Doss is a columnist for the New Pittsburgh Courier.