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Jackson State's Isaiah Bolden Is the Only HBCU Football player Selected in 2023 NFL Draft

There were 259 NFL Draft hopefuls that realized their dreams last week, as 32 teams bolstered their rosters with talent from the entire college football landscape last weekend. But only one of the players selected in the 2023 draft was from an HBCU.

Isaiah Bolden

That college football player was none other than Jackson State’s Isaiah Bolden, who was selected at pick 245 by the New England Patriots as a cornerback.

“It means a lot to me, carrying the weight of the HBCU’s,” Bolden told ESPN following the Patriots selecting the player. “There are a lot of talented guys out there.”

It is true that HBCU football players recently have had more opportunities to showcase their football skills in front of NFL scouts and general managers thanks to the HBCU Combine and the HBCU Legacy Bowl. But the added visibility, according to The Grio, has yet to manifest into even more athletes from HBCUs accomplishing their goals: to hear their names called by none other than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Since 2000, nine of the 23 drafts did not feature a single HBCU talent, which included the 2021 Draft, according to USA Today. Four HBCU players were drafted in 2022, but none before the fourth round.

A 6’2”, 203-pound Florida State transfer, Bolden said he transferred to Jackson State in 2020 to exhibit other star athletes and their talents to prove that their professional dreams can be achieved by going to an HBCU.

“I’m taking on the responsibility to show recruits and transfers that you can come to an HBCU and get to the league,” Bolden said of his decision to ESPN. “Me being a part of that change is a big thing for me.”

Still, several other HBCU players were signed as undrafted free agents following the 2023 draft, including Jackson State player Aubrey Miller Jr., Florida A&M’s Isaiah Land, among many others, according to HBCU Legends.

But many HBCU football players, coaches, former coaches, alumni and fans noted the ongoing lack of selections when it comes to HBCU players.

NFL Network reporter and alumni of Howard University, Steve Wyche tweeted words of encouragement to HBCU players looking to play football in the NFL.

To all the HBCU players that don’t get drafted. Use that as another chip on your shoulder so if you get into a camp, let them know what time it is. Remember, it’s about the opportunity. If you get your foot in the door, earn your keep and wake up all those who slept!”

Photo Credit: Instagram - @Zaybolden__


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