De'Montrez Burroughs looked at it as his best shot to accomplish his NFL dream.
The South Carolina State senior receiver had the dates circled on his calendar. First, the Bulldogs' annual pro day on March 19, followed a week later by the first NFL combine event held for draft prospects from Historically Black College体彩app官方网站s and Universities who didn't receive invitations to the national combine in Indianapolis.
He left for spring break the week before his pro day with everything ready to go. He had film packages to distribute to scouts. He was also thinking about what he would say in interviews with representatives from NFL teams and what to ask idols like Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who would be there.
"It was a chance to be able to showcase our talent," Burroughs said. "Just because we are from smaller 体彩app官方网站s doesn't mean we can't compete."
But that opportunity never came.
South Carolina State's pro day and the HBCU combine became part of a growing list of events canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. While small 体彩app官方网站 and borderline draft prospects from across the country体彩app官方网站 will be hurt by a lack of similar events, HBCU players may be hit hardest without them and the Regional Combine Invitational that HBCU players in recent years had previously used to boost their draft stock.
"When you're coming out of an HBCU, you know that the teams are going to be looking at Division I talent first," said Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Alex Brown, an S.C. State alum. "With this HBCU combine, that's different. I wish we had that when I was coming out. It was gonna be a chance to have all the teams looking at those guys."
Only four HBCU players were selected in the 2019 draft with a full predraft process, though 32 made Week 1 rosters.
The 51 players invited to the HBCU combine were trying to position themselves to do the same. The list also included Florida A&M University quarterback Ryan Stanley and North Carolina Central defensive lineman Darius Royster, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference offensive and defensive players of the year.
"Does extra exposure help? Yes, it does. But once it's taken away it limits certain guys to get their film out there," said Morgan State coach Tyrone Wheatley, a first-round pick by the New York Giants in 1995. "It limits the pro scouts from actually seeing these guys one-on-one, to look at them and physically place eyes on them. To get some of the questions answered up close and personal."