HBCU Football Combine gives kids free exposure to college coaches

HBCU Football Combine gives kids free exposure to college coaches

ST. LOUIS — Former Mizzou Tiger and NFL player Demetrious Johnson loves to give back to the St. Louis community.

For nearly a decade, he’s been giving back to young football players who need the exposure in hopes of playing at the next level. Johnson has sponsored a free football combine for area athletes. The goal is simple: try to show the young men there is more to life than St. Louis.

“The economy is difficult,” Johnson said. “Families are struggling. We want to be a relief. I want to give these kids an opportunity. (I want) to show them that life is different and that it could be better than your circumstances.”

Other football showcases cost anywhere between $70-$100 to register. That made it difficult for those who couldn’t afford the combines to attend.

“Nobody gets disenfranchised here,” Desmet Football Coach Alphonso Scott, one of the event’s organizers, said. “Everybody has the same opportunity regardless of the money you have. They don’t have to worry about scraping up $70 here and $100 here.”

Many local high schools bring their athletes to the free event every year. It’s a chance for the players to see how much work and effort they need at the college level.

Above all else, the showcase features coaches mainly from historically black colleges and universities. Johnson and Scott say those schools don’t have as much funding, and they may miss out on some great talent from cities like St. Louis.

“What better school to put in front of (the athletes) than schools where men that look like them; where men who know the struggles they go through,” Scott said.

And that has resonated some with of the players. East St. Louis football player Austin Walker, who says an HBCU is a school he’d consider playing for, said he likes “the atmosphere (an HBCU). Being an African American, it would feel like home to me.”

Saturday’s edition of the HBCU football combine pre-registered about 400 student-athletes. In the years the combine has been held, Scott tells Fox 2 that 50-65 kids have received scholarships from HBCU teams. Most of them have stayed on the football rosters as well.

It’s a vision that has come to fruition for the event’s organizers.

“Anytime a kid comes to this combine, and that kid is in college, and they’re not in this environment that’s a success,” Scott said.

“I just want these young men and women to get off the streets of St. Louis and go somewhere and do something with their lives and help themselves and their families,” Johnson said.


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