Bears' Lachavious Simmons Stands Alone as HBCU Pick

Gene Chamberlain

Lachavious Simmons had already endeared himself to Chicago fans on draft day while describing himself for the uninitiated.

"I think I'm a guy who can compete on the first day in because I was born on a farm," Simmons said in his post draft conference call. "I'm a blue-collar guy who grew up on a farm, throwing hay bales, disciplined. I feel like my hard work, it can match anybody's."

Simmons, it turns out, is one very determined individual. He is dealing with a hardship just to be involved in Bears virtual offseason and his very selection is a story of adversity overcome.

The former Tennessee State offensive lineman was brought up on the family farm near Selma, Ala. and became the final player selected by the Bears in the 2020 NFL Draft at No. 227 overall.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Simmons is giving an example of just how determined he can be. He told the Bears' website he's going 15 miles to Selma from his family's farm near Orrville, Ala. to get better internet speed so he can get hooked into each position meeting.

Simmons' determination is apparent in another way.

When general manager Ryan Pace selected Simmons, the Bears became the only team in the National Football League to draft a player this year from one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

"It's an honor, man, to be the only HBCU player to get drafted this year and I feel like I've got to carry everybody on my shoulder for the HBCU community because there's some very talented players in the HBCU," Simmons told Jeff Joniak, Jim Miller and Tom Thayer with the radio program Bears All Access.

Simmons in this regard follows in the path of many other great players from their past including the greatest, Walter Payton from Jackson State, and fellow Tennessee State player Richard Dent, the Super Bowl XX MVP.

It has been extremely difficult for HBCU schools to get players drafted in recent years. Only seven were drafted in 2018 and 2019, and this was supposed to be a year when more made it because they were scheduled to hold the first HBCU scouting combine with 51 players invited to work out for NFL teams.

The HBCU combine scheduled for March 27 and 28 at the Miami Dolphins' practice facility was, of course, wiped out by the pandemic.

The only HBCU player of the 337 invited to the national scouting combine in Indianapolis was Alex Taylor, a lineman from South Carolina State. Taylor went undrafted and signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns.

The 21 historically black colleges and universities playing football last season besides Tennessee State, Jackson State and South Carolina State were Mississippi Valley State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Texas Southern, Delaware State, Morgan State, Alabama A&M, Norfolk State, Alabama State, Hampton, Howard, Prairie View A&M, Southern, Grambling State, North Carolina Central, Alcorn State, Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman.

Simmons didn't have to go far to point out the talent in the rest of the HBCU. His teammate Chris Rowland was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent after being chosen the HBCU player of the year and breaking Jerry Rice's 1984 record of 103 catches by making 104 receptions.

There have been 112 players in all in the NFL or AFL from Tennessee State. 

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