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Edward Hill at Howard spots future pros in the black college ranks the way others did before him

by Carl Lut Williams

I will remember the 2015 NFL Draft for several things.rodney gunter

Number one, four black college players went off the draft boards, a healthy increase from the total of five that had been selected in the three previous drafts.

More importantly however, I remember the fact that the first prospect to be selected was a little-known player from Delaware State, defensive tackle Rodney Gunter, who was taken by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round last Saturday.

More important still, for me, was that his selection was forecasted by longtime Howard University Sports Information Director Ed Hill.

Hill has been SID at Howard for over 30 years – long enough to know when he sees an NFL-bound player. He’s seen his share of talented players at Howard and on teams the Bison play who flashed exceptional talent.

Think Steve McNair, the Alcorn State quarterback who thrilled Hill so much as a sophomore that he raved about him long before he broke records, finished third in the 1994 Heisman Trophy race and was the third pick in the 1995 Draft.

Former Bethune-Cookman safety Rashean Mathis was another who flashed unquestioned NFL potential for the Wildcats and caught the eye of Hill before fashioning a now 11-year pro career. Ditto for Kenric Ellis, who dominated MEAC play before being plucked in the draft by the New York Jets five years ago. Anthoine Bethea, a sixth round pick of Indianapolis in 2006 headed toward his 11th NFL season, as well as former Howard NFL vet Tracy White, were also pegged NFL-bound by Hill early in their careers.ed hill

And that’s exactly what he saw in Gunter, a 6-5, 305-pound specimen who dominated the Bison when they played last Fall.

‘Keep your eye on Rodney Gunter,’ he told me this past season after the Bison and Hornets did battle on the gridiron. ‘He’s going to play in the NFL.’
Well, guess what? The scouts missed on Gunter. He wasn’t invited to the Combine or to any postseason all-star games and wasn’t even given a grade in draft boards.

To understand Hills’ eye for NFL talent, compare his to this story of how the Cardinals came upon Gunter. Both he and the Cardinals said Gunter ‘looked‘ like he belonged in the league.

Rodney Gunter Worth The Work For Cardinals
http://www.azcardinals.com/news-and-events/article-3/Rodney-Gunter-Worth-The-Work-For-Cardinals/d872c128-584a-4add-bfea-1128b400d726
And check out the videos of his first workouts with the Cardinals and his interview after being selected.

Once upon a time, guys like Hill were employed by NFL teams to scout black colleges and find the gems that turn out to be stars in the league.bill nunn jr

The Pittsburgh Steelers employed Bill Nunn Jr., who died a year ago this week, with his in-depth knowledge of black college football in 1967 to help
build their dynasty. Nunn literally worked for the Steelers up till his death though he retired in 1988.

Pro Football Hall of Famers Mel Blount (Southern) and John Stallworth (Alabama A&M) as well as standouts Donnie Shell (South Carolina State), L. C. Greenwood (Arkansas AM&N now Pine Bluff) and a host or other pro standouts were the result of Nunns’ vital input. The Steelers had 12 black college players on the roster when they won their first Super Bowl (IX), 11 when they won again in Super Bowl X and five while winning SBs XIII and XIV. Blount, Shell, Greenwood and Stallworth were there for all four.

Current owner Dan Rooney considers Nunn one of the four legends in Steelers history.

lloyd wellsLloyd C. A. “Judge“ Wells, the first full-time African-American scout in the NFL, did the same for the 1960s Kansas City Chiefs beginning with their picks of Buck Buchanan (Grambling), the first African-American drafted No. 1 in a pro draft in 1963, and Otis Taylor (Prairie View) in 1965. Jim Kearney (Prairie View), Emmit Thomas (Bishop) and Willie Lanier (Morgan State), the first African-American to play middle linebacker in the league, followed. Buchanan, Thomas and Lanier are Hall of Famers.

The Chiefs played in two of the first four Super Bowls with players stocked from the black college ranks who were mined by Wells. Kansas City had 11 African-American starters when they won Super Bowl IV(23-7 over Minnesota) in 1969. Nine of those starters were from black colleges. Wells passed in 2005.

If Hill looks for employment after his long tenure at Howard, maybe an NFL team with Super Bowl aspirations can hook him up.

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