The Traditionally Black Schools and Universities (HBCU) would have their very own chapter within the NFL historical past ebook.
There have been 14 HBCU merchandise named to the NFL’s one centesimal anniversary group, together with the likes of Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley), Walter Payton (Jackson State) and Deacon Jones (South Carolina State). These 14 plus 20 others, together with Grambling’s Buck Buchanan, the primary HBCU product to go first total in a draft in 1963, have been enshrined within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame.
However the previous is what the HBCU should cling to. There hasn’t been a lot of a gift. For the primary time within the sport’s trendy period, there wasn’t a single HBCU participant drafted by the NFL in 2021. The Willie Laniers, Ken Houstons and Mel Blounts have develop into few and much between for the Southern black faculties.
Prairie View A&M produced Houston, a member on the NFL’s one centesimal anniversary group. The Panthers additionally despatched a prolific passing mixture of Jim Kearney and Otis Taylor to the AFL. Each began for the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs of their Tremendous Bowl IV upset of the Minnesota Vikings, Kearney at security and Taylor at extensive receiver. And Jim Mitchell grew to become a Professional Bowl tight finish for the Atlanta Falcons.
However Prairie View has solely had one participant drafted within the final 41 years – defensive finish Quinton Bell by the Raiders within the seventh spherical in 2019. His NFL profession lasted solely 5 video games.
So Danny Garza is aware of what he’s up towards this draft season.
Garza grew to become a walk-in starter for Prairie View at middle as a real freshman in 2017 and remained there for 5 years, together with the Covid-abbreviated 2020 season. He leaves Prairie View as some of the embellished gamers at school historical past, incomes first- or second-team All-SWAC honors in every of his ultimate three seasons.
However Garza has spent a soccer profession doing issues the laborious means. As an Hispanic from the south aspect of San Antonio, Garza had just one scholarship provide – from an HBCU faculty.
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“I by no means heard of Prairie View and didn’t know what the HBCU was,” Garza mentioned. “Going from an all-Hispanic group to an all-black group was a little bit of a tradition shock. It was positively a brand new expertise for me as a result of now I used to be the minority. However my teammates, my coaches and the varsity employees have been all tremendous welcoming. It was a fantastic environment, a fantastic setting and an uplifting expertise. It was only a great spot for me to be.”
It was a tradition shock Garza embraced. He flourished each on the sector and off at Prairie View, incomes a bachelor’s diploma in interdisciplinary research and dealing towards a grasp’s diploma in schooling administration. So if a door doesn’t open for him in professional soccer, Garza plans to place his schooling to make use of. He’d prefer to return dwelling to San Antonio and educate particular ed and coach high-school soccer.
“On the south aspect there aren’t too many athletes who make it to the second stage,” Garza mentioned. “I wish to give these athletes alternatives and recommendation – how you can work out, how you can handle faculty, how you can handle their our bodies, how you can do the little issues. I wish to be the function mannequin I used to be at all times searching for once I was rising up.”
However Plan A stays soccer. Garza was the most effective blocker up entrance in a shotgun offense that allowed the fewest sacks within the SWAC every of the final three seasons – and Prairie View reached the SWAC title sport in 2021. He was then invited to play in each the Pigskin Bowl and the inaugural Legacy Bowl, all-star video games created to intensify the NFL’s consciousness of HBCU gamers.
His selection of college and convention profit Garza now as he seems to be to take his sport to the following stage.
“You develop into a well-rounded participant within the SWAC since you’re uncovered to so many various types of protection,” Garza mentioned. “It retains you in your toes going towards Grambling and its ‘chaos’ protection, then Southern with its 3-4 seems to be after which the 4-3’s that the opposite faculties have to supply.”
Garza arrived at Prairie View in 2017 as a 6-2, 280-pound participant. He measured 6-3, 305 kilos on the Legacy Bowl weigh-ins. His professional day at Prairie View is April 2.
“That’s all I’ve ever wished since I began taking part in soccer – a possibility to play,” Garza mentioned. “After I’ve gotten the chance. I’ve run with it … and I’m by no means letting that go. I wish to keep on the sector so long as I can. There’s nothing prefer it.”