Durham, NC

Pro football leagues give HBCU players more opportunity

The Triangle Tribune

By Bonitta Best


The United State Football League ended its inaugural return season with a bang. The Birmingham Stallions (10-1) rallied to defeat the Philadelphia Stars (6-5), 33-30, in last Sunday’s championship game.

The only part of the game that interests me, however, is how many HBCU players were involved. Earning their first championship ring as a professional player were Tuskegee wide receiver Peyton Ramzy and North Carolina Central cornerback Bryan Mills.

On the Stars’ side, Tennessee State WR Chris Rowland, Mississippi Valley State offensive lineman Sean Brown and Jackson State defensive tackle Antwan Owens suffered their first heartbreak as a pro.

Despite the loss, Rowland made a name for himself with an impressive performance: four catches for 55 yards and one touchdown, s 29 rushing yards and a kickoff return for another 59 yards.

At least one HBCU player played on seven of the eight teams. And the best news is the league has stated on its website that it will return next year. But it also will have more competition with the startup of the XFL.

We Got Next

Now that the USFL is done, another professional league is set to begin.

The Major League Football will open its season Aug. 9 with four teams: Arkansas Attack, Virginia Armada, Ohio Force and Alabama Airborne. The MLFB runs for just one month, with a championship game on Sept. 6.

Unlike the USFL, the MLFB states that its core mission is player development; preparing players for a possible move up to a bigger league.

One of the four coaches is a familiar name in HBCU circles: former Elizabeth City State head football coach Earnest Wilson who will coach the Attack. The 2016 CIAA coach of the year also was the offensive coordinator at Jackson State and Hampton, and the head coach at Savannah State when it was trying to transition to Division I.

Wilson is pulling from his HBCU roots, signing former St. Augustine’s quarterback Jalen Jones and wide receiver Aakiel Greer.

MLFB players will earn $2,000 per week plus bonuses for personal and team achievements. Not bad for a month’s worth of work doing something you love.

Giving Back

Another thing I love to do is showcase folks who are giving back to their community.

Durham pastor Sherard A. Johnson is one of those people. Johnson has over 10 years of experience in ministry and sports, and, many times, to get someone to listen to the former, you need to get them to the latter.

Johnson, who also is the athletic director at Cresset Christian Academy in Durham, has a nonprofit called Ron N Shoot Sports. It was founded in memory of his father, Ronald “Ron” Johnson, who coached AAU basketball in Maryland. But basketball took a backseat to taking young men off the streets, teaching them life skills lessons that turned them into either college graduates or employed workers.

Johnson has followed in his Dad’s footsteps with programs like Durham’s Breakfast of Hope, The Battle for the Bull Tournament of Champions and the North Carolina Invitational Tournament.

But the most special one, to a lot of people, is the annual PROJECT 300. Johnson collects over 300 pairs of NEW – emphasis on NEW – sneakers “to make sure that at least 300 Durham kids can go back to school with something new,” he wrote.

Johnson will be collecting donations for the shoes through Aug. 10. And for those who are short of funds, volunteers are needed to sort and distribute the shoes when the time comes.

To learn more, visit rnssportsnc.com, email him at RNSsportsNC@gmail.com, or contact him on social media at #PROJECT300.

Bonitta BestTribune

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The Triangle Tribune is a part of The Charlotte Post Publishing Company. We are a multimedia conglomerate that covers the Triangle's African American community in community news, business, HBCU sports, health, and arts and lifestyle since March 1998.

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