Hampton U. now on NFL's radar
Alonzo Coleman had four 1,000-yard rushing seasons at Hampton.
Hampton University is not a college football giant. Far from it. But as Rick Gosselin
writes in the latest installment of his draft series, the Division I-AA school in Virginia is big time in the eyes of NFL scouts. That would explain why five
Hampton players were invited to the league's annual scouting combine in February.
Division I-AA program had five players at combine in February 12:15 PM CDT on Thursday, March 29, 2007
By RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News
The NFL knows the road to Charlottesville and Blacksburg. Scouting treks to the campuses of Virginia and Virginia Tech over the years have produced the likes of Ronde and Tiki Barber, Mike Vick, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, DeAngelo Hall and Thomas Jones.
Scouts needed to learn the road to another Virginia campus in 2006, as well.
Every February, the NFL invites the 325
top draft prospects to Indianapolis for its annual scouting combine. The invite list in 2007 included five players from Hampton University, a Division I-AA power on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
That didn't match the seven invitations bestowed on the prospects at Virginia Tech but Hampton received as many as national powers Arkansas and Penn State and more than BCS participants Southern Cal (four), Wisconsin (two) and Wake Forest (two).
"I take a lot of pride in that," Hampton linebacker Justin Durant said.
"There's a reason the Hampton guys were invited."
Good football players can't hide from the NFL and Hampton has some good football players:
Durant was a three-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year from his middle linebacker spot. On tape, the NFL saw his 353 career tackles. At the combine, the NFL saw his 4.56-second speed over 40 yards.
Alonzo Coleman was a four-time All-MEAC selection at halfback, becoming just the eighth player in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 in all four of his college seasons.
Marquay McDaniel was a four-year starter and a two-time All-MEAC selection as both a wide receiver and punt returner. He caught 151 passes in his career and set NCAA I-AA records with his 144 punt returns for 1,907 yards.
Travarous Bain was a two-time All-MEAC selection at cornerback. He transferred to Hampton from Miami (Fla.), where he doubled as a defensive back on the football team and a sprinter on the track team.
Onrea Jones started opposite McDaniel at wide receiver and caught 96 career passes. As a high schooler in Virginia, he was a state champion in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles. The NFL likes speed.
All five Hampton standouts are hoping the NFL can correct mistakes that occurred several years ago during the college recruitment process.
"I wanted to go Division I," Durant said. "That's everyone's dream coming out of high school to play for a Division I team. But a couple of us didn't have any offers, so we had no choice but to go where we went.
"But I knew I could be one of the better players in the nation if I worked hard to get better."
Hard work sent middle linebackers Willie Lanier from Morgan State and Harry Carson from South Carolina State to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hard work also sent rookie safety Antoine Bethea from Howard into the starting Super Bowl lineup of the Indianapolis Colts last February.
The NFL has an open-door policy for small schools such as Hampton.
"The NFL has always been an aspiration," Durant said. "I realized there was always a path. Some of the bigger names in the league today came from smaller schools. I knew there was always a way."