One of the most prolific defensive backs in NFL history is none too pleased with the vast majority of the league after the 2023 NFL Draft concluded.
Deion Sanders, the former NFL All-Pro and current University of Colorado Boulder head football coach, blasted 31 NFL teams on Saturday evening for failing to draft a player from a historically black college or university.
HBCUs are near and dear to Sanders’ heart, as while he never played for one, his last coaching gig before Colorado was at Jackson State. It was at Jackson State where Sanders cemented his bona fides as a coach, leading the historically nondescript football program to back-to-back division championships and bowls. Neither feat had ever been accomplished in Jackson State history. Sanders also went 23-3 as a coach at Jackson State, including 16-0 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference.
Part of all that winning in Mississippi was cornerback and return specialist Isaiah Bolden, who was drafted 245th (there were 259 players taken total in the 2023 annual player selection meeting) and went to the New England Patriots.
Ironically enough, this means that Bolden, the lone HBCU player drafted this year, is going to the one fan base most often accused of being “racist.”
Regardless, Sanders naturally wanted to congratulate one of the young men he had helped develop and nurture at Jackson State and did so on Twitter.
That was also a chance for Sanders to rip into all of the other teams who passed on Bolden and other HBCU athletes:
So proud is you @isaiahbolden23 You deserved to be drafted much higher but I’m truly proud of u. I know how much u want this. I’m ashamed of the 31 other @nfl teams that couldn’t find draft value in ALL of the talented HBCU players & we had 3 more draft worthy players at JSU. pic.twitter.com/BfEm3zIGPH
— COACH PRIME (@DeionSanders) April 30, 2023
“So proud [of you Bolden],” Sanders tweeted. “You deserved to be drafted much higher but I’m truly proud of [you.] I know how much [you] want this.”
Had the former NFL superstar (he has played for the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens) simply ended his tweet there, it would’ve been a typical sentiment.
But Sanders wasn’t content with just congratulating his former ward — he had a bone to pick with the 31 teams in the NFL that don’t play in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
“I’m ashamed of the 31 other [NFL] teams that couldn’t find draft value in ALL of the talented HBCU players & we had 3 more draft worthy players at [Jackson State],” Sanders added.
NFL scouts and draft analysis experts will have to explain how factual Sanders’ claim of other draft-worthy players is, but it’s a curious complaint in the grander context of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Because while Bolden may have been the only HBCU athlete selected in the draft this year, ESPN and the NFL both made sure to remind the audience that this year’s draft featured three black quarterbacks being taken in the first four picks of the draft (the first 10 picks overall were all black athletes):
— ESPN (@espn) April 28, 2023
— NFL (@NFL) April 28, 2023
In fact, the most scrutinized fall in the draft belonged to University of Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, who was the first white quarterback taken in the draft. Despite being a potential top-15 pick, Levis fell to No. 33 overall when the Tennessee Titans drafted him. Levis actually had the ignominious “honor” of being invited to the draft site on night one of the draft, only to see his name not called. Levis did not return for day two, when the Titans traded up to acquire him.
For Sanders and Bolden, the draft is over so there won’t be any more HBCU players drafted per se. But the NFL has always featured a robust undrafted rookie market, so there’s still a very good chance that Bolden may yet still see some of his former teammates make the jump to the NFL.
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