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MEAC Leads Producing NFL Talent Over SWAC

The MEAC may not be as large as its rivals, but it produces more NFL players than other HBCU conferences.

I listened near the stage as commissioner Dr. McClelland told ESPN's Tiffany Greene and Jay Walker that he believed the SWAC is "already a superconference." Indeed the conference is more prominent and may have more financial resources, but does it birth more NFL players?

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The twelve-member institutions have well-known names in the form of Grambling State, Florida A&M, and Jackson State. Eddie Robinson, Billy Nicks, and Marino Casem are the past legendary SWAC coaches who paved the way for current coaches named Deion Sanders, Willie Simmons, and Hue Jackson.

Nevertheless, since the intra-conference games began, the MEAC has dominated the SWAC in the SWAC/MEAC Challenges (11-4) and Celebration Bowl (5-1) head-to-head contests. Still, one area often overlooked in the MEAC's recent dominance against the SWAC is the production of NFL talent.

South Carolina State's head coach Buddy Pough can boldly say that he's become the "HBCU-to-NFL Talent Whisperer." His program produced seven NFL players that include All-Pro linebacker Darius 'Shaq' Leonard, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, and rookie defensive back Decobie Durant. 

Darius Leonard

No, it wasn't a mistake how the Bulldogs marched into Atlanta and overpowered the Jackson State Tigers in the 2021 Celebration Bowl. Buddy Pough is an outstanding head coach. Period.

With the emergence of Coach Prime and new head coaches in the SWAC, the pendulum may swing back in the conference's direction. In April's 2021 NFL Draft, the SWAC delivered two players as JSU linebacker

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James Houston (Detriot Lions) and offensive lineman Ja'Tyre Carter (Chicago Bears) received the draft nods.

Here are today's facts about HBCU players in the National Football League:

  1. 17 NFL teams have 33 players who have roots from HBCU football programs.
  2. The 2021 HBCU Football Champions South Carolina State Bulldogs have seven players currently on 2022 NFL preseason rosters.
  3. The MEAC programs have 13.5 players on NFL preseason rosters.
  4. The SWAC has 12.5 players on NFL preseason rosters.
  5. The .5 player is Cleveland Browns' wide receiver Daylen Baldwin with played in the MEAC (Morgan State) and SWAC (Jackson State).

Here's an interesting sidenote to consider about the MEAC players. A few from Florida A&M (Bell, Forbes) and North Carolina A&T (Darryl Johnson, Brandon Parker, Mac McMain) all had experienced playing in the MEAC before their respective schools left for the SWAC (FAMU) and Big South (NCA&T). Not bad for a conference that is down to six members after the departures of FAMU, Bethune-Cookman to the SWAC, and Hampton, North Carolina A&T to the Big South in recent years.

Therefore, the MEAC can stake its claim to be the better conference in preparing HBCU football players to meet the challenges of the National Football League.

The next question is, "Why?" I will investigate and deliver in Part 2.

We shall see.

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