Waiting for a call that could change their lives

Staff for NFL teams prepare for the start of the annual NFL draft. Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

According to an infographic released by the NCAA, only 1.6% of draft-eligible players will be drafted and enter the ranks of the NFL.

The statistics are even bleaker for HBCU athletes. In last year’s draft, not a single athlete attending an HBCU was selected. Despite this, Rattler draft prospects continue to push to fulfill their dreams of making it to the professional level. As the NFL Draft approaches, Florida A&M University draft prospects work to prepare their skills and wait to hear their names called to play at the highest level of football.

Names to watch

Markquese Bell is currently the most notable Rattler entering this year’s draft. According to ESPN, Bell had 23 total tackles, five forced fumbles, six interceptions, and a sack in his two-year career at FAMU. At 6’3 205 pounds, Bell is a very active and aggressive player in the safety position. He can align the defense using long strides and finds the proper angles to gain ground on his opponents and meet them near the gap.

Bell was the only member of this year’s Florida A&M draft prospects to be invited to the NFL combine, where he put up some impressive numbers. NFL.com reports Bell hitting a time of 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, a 4.46 20-yard shuttle time, and a 36.5-inch vertical leap at the combine. Chad Reuter, an NFL draft analyst, currently has Bell projected to go in the sixth round of the draft to the New Orleans Saints with the 198th overall pick. If drafted, Bell will be the first Rattler to be selected in the NFL draft since Brandon Hepburn was chosen in the seventh round by the Detroit Lions in 2013.

Another prospect to pay attention to is defensive lineman Savion Williams. He transferred to Florida A&M last season from the University of Tennessee.

FAMU athletics reports Williams recording 29 tackles in the 2021 season, 17 solo and 12 assisted, while playing in only eight games in his one-year stint as a rattler. Williams also had 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks during his tenure as a Rattler.

At 6’4 and weighing in at 290 pounds, Williams made the Second Team All SWAC last season and was an essential part of the Rattler’s stingy defense. Williams relentlessly hustles and grinds to make his team’s plays using his strength, speed, and fancy footwork. Antwan Collier, 6’3 safety and transfer from the University of Central Florida, is another NFL prospect with potential.

During Collier’s tenure at UCF, he was named First-team all-conference, starting all 13 games for the Knights in 2019. He recorded 74 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss that same season. Collier was a pivotal piece to UCF’s 2017 undefeated season. He snagged the final interception to seal the game and perfect season for UCF in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Auburn University.

Last season, Collier had seven total tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception for the rattlers. According to Sports Illustrated, at the HBCU combine, Collier posted a 4.59 40-yard dash time and a vertical of 27 inches. Collier caught the attention of NFL scouts, displaying his 77 ½ inch wingspan and natural leadership skills.

The NFL draft will begin on Thursday, April 28, at 8:00 p.m. eastern time and conclude Saturday, April 30.