HBCU athletes are often overlooked when it comes to getting exposure and
opportunities to perform at the next level. However there’s been a shift in the amount of
attention that athletes at HBCUs have been getting of late.
Now more than ever HBCU sports are in the spotlight on a much bigger and broader
stage than in recent years. Due to Florida A&M University’s success on the gridiron, the
university has attracted national attention.
The success that FAMU has enjoyed under coach Willie Simmons has attracted a Nike
sponsorship and a partnership with NBA All-Star LeBron James making FAMU the only
school to achieve this milestone.
“It’s a major tool in building the recognizability of our brand and the standard we hold
ourselves to. There’s a reason LeBron James wanted to attach his name and brand to
our university and we take pride in that,” FAMU baseball pitcher Raylan Wagner said.
“People all over the world know about our university and our athletics program largely
due to the impact that LeBron James has had on our program.”
Former FAMU football star Markquese Bell participated in the 2022 NFL combine,
posting exceptional numbers that put NFL scouts on notice. Bell ended up not being
drafted, but continued to work as an undrafted free agent and eventually signed with the
Dallas Cowboys in the months that followed.
Xavier Smith, another star athlete for the FAMU football team, recently participated in
the HBCU combine where he caught the attention of NFL veteran Steve Smith Sr., who
had high praise for Smith’s athletic ability. This year FAMU also sent its All-American
linebacker to the NFL combine in hopes to get drafted by an NFL team.
“Seeing people who are on the same team, coming from the same practices, drills, and
games be able to go off and perform how they do and still make NFL teams is an
inspiration to us. [It] lets us know that there is a way,” Tyrell White, a current football
player at FAMU, said.
Student-athletes in the so-called Olympic sports sometimes feel overlooked — and
“[When talking about FAMU only being noticed for football] that is a common
misconception about FAMU when looking at FAMU athletics because the other sports
don’t get talked about like football such as track and field which takes away from
athletes like Jaylen Scott or Rachel Robertson who competed in NCAA Nationals and
who were nationally ranked. When they don’t get consistent exposure it’s almost give off
that FAMU is just a football school when that’s the furthest from the truth, but it still be motivating to know your colleagues can compete with the very best but it can be
unmotivating sometimes if the spotlight only goes to football like it does usually,” high
jumper Javante Stephens, a member of the track team, said.
A common phrase used by most coaches is, “If you play well, scouts will find you.” This
has been proven to be true the past couple of years.