Kayvon Thibodeaux's recruiting trip to Florida A&M shows NFL could use more representation from historically black colleges.EXPAND
Kayvon Thibodeaux's recruiting trip to Florida A&M shows NFL could use more representation from historically black colleges.
Kayvon Thibodeaux / Twitter

Amid NFL's Racist Protest Crackdown, Young Stars Should Return to Historically Black Colleges

Kayvon Thibodeaux's recent recruiting trip to Florida A&M University is putting the NFL on notice that some African-American high-school players are serious about expanding their black consciousnesses. If the Southern California native decides to become a Rattler, Thibodeaux could spark a movement that would force the NFL to draft more players from historically black colleges and universities.

Thibodeaux, a defensive end for Oaks Christian School in Los Angeles who is college football's most sought-after recruit, had supposedly narrowed his list to the Alabama Crimson Tide, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Oregon Ducks, and USC Trojans prior to his visit to the FAMU campus this weekend. He left Tallahassee buzzing about his experience.

On July 29, he tweeted a collage of photos of him wearing the Rattlers uniform with a caption that read, "I had an unbelievable time at #FAMU." A day earlier, he tweeted, "I’m loving #FAMU i might have to rebook my flight and stay a couple more days," and "Every student athlete needs to visit a HBCU."

If Thibodeaux accepted a scholarship to FAMU, it would send shockwaves throughout the football hierarchy. Not since the days of Walter Payton and Shannon Sharpe has the NFL had a bona fide future Pro Bowler from a historically black school playing in the league. Nowadays, it's unheard of for a player of Thibodeaux's level to even visit a school like FAMU. In fact, the NFL has taken steps to diminish the chances that a student-athlete from a historically black college or university can snag a spot on a team's roster.

None of the 32 NFL teams holds pro days at historically black schools anymore. The message NFL owners are sending is clear: The only way to get into the pros is by attending a Division I university or college, where a majority of the student population, the faculty, the administration, and the coaching staff is white. If the high-school student-athletes don't play for the Nick Sabans of college football, they won't play in the NFL. And DeMaurice Smith, the black executive director of the NFL Players Association, has done nothing to open more doors for student-athletes from historically black colleges and universities. 

Amid NFL's Racist Protest Crackdown, Young Stars Should Return to Historically Black Colleges
illustration by Adam Izaguirre

But young black men who play football are paying more attention to the racism in their sport thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and the National Anthem protests in the NFL. They have seen Colin Kaepernick blackballed for starting a movement among his peers to protest police brutality and other injustices against African-Americans. They are outraged by NFL owners' and Donald Trump's attempts to change the narrative about why black players are taking a knee during the National Anthem. Then you have Dallas Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones and his father and team owner Jerry Jones acting like plantation owners by threatening to cut players who kneel in protest.

Thibodeaux, whose number of Twitter followers exploded when he announced his FAMU visit, is so talented that the NFL couldn't ignore him if he played for the Rattlers. He is still a first-round Top 10 pick no matter which college football program he joins. And he would inspire more black high-school football players to follow his lead.

That would force the NFL to be more inclusive of historically black schools. If not, the owners are sending a clear message: We don't want rebels or any of that black-power shit.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclukereal1.

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