By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
To say sports fans have undergone extreme withdrawal symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic would be a major understatement. However, later this week, they may get their first reprieve.
The NFL (as of press time) have stated they will still put on their annual College Draft extravaganza on April 23-25. Originally scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, all draft activities will be held on-line while being broadcast by the NFL Network, ABC, and ESPN Networks.
Today, we conclude our annual look at the best HBCU football players that are eligible for this year’s draft. It gives our readers a look back at some of the outstanding performers of the past season who hope to turn their Saturday dreams into Sunday realities.
Our previous chapter was focused on safeties. Today, we complete our series by focusing on special teams
Braxton Gambrell, Johnson C. Smith
An All-CIAA selection for 2019, Gambrell returned nine punts for 257 yards averaging 28.5 per game. the 5-foot-6, 175-pounder returned two punts for touchdowns with his longest of 74 yards. As a running back, the Seneca, S.C. native also carried the ball nine times with his longest of 54 yards.
Ezra Gray, Alabama State
The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder was an All-SWAC performer in 2019 after returning 14 kicks for 338 yards. He averaged 24.14 yards per return, with a long of 56. The native of Lynn Haven, Fla. led the conference in returns with the fewest number of returns for those in the top seven. A member of the 2019 Academic All-America Team, Gray also rushed for nearly 600 yards and went over the 1,000-yard mark for his career in the Magic City Classic in October.
Anthony Craven, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
A finalist for the inaugural FCS Punter of the Year award, the Linden, Calif. native led the conference in punting and was in the top 10 in the nation for most of the year. The 6-foot-2, 224-pounder led the conference with a 43.8-yard average, more than two yards longer than the closest punter. He punted the ball 59 times for 2,586 yards and finished the season with 22 punts of 50-plus yards. He also finished with 22 punts inside the 20 and recorded a season-long of 64.
Ty Woods, Clark-Atlanta
The Montgomery, Ala. native led the SIAC’s top punt team with 60 punts for 2,003 yards for a 39.3 average, which was tied for the best in all games among conference punters. The 6-foot, 186-pounder had seven punts over 50 yards this season, including a season-long 60-yarder against Savannah State. He also had 12 punts that landed inside the 20-yard line along with 17 that were fair catches.
Yahia Aly, Florida A&M
An All-MEAC selection in 2019, the 6-foot, 200-pound native of Whittier, Calif. was 8-of-15 on field goal attempts this season. He made two field goals from 50 yards out, including a 52 yarder against Norfolk State; which is the second longest made field goal in FAMU football history.
Giovanni Lugo, Savannah State
An All-SIAC selection in 2019 and All-MEAC selection in 2018, the Belle Glade, Fla. native has been pulling double duty for the Tigers the last two seasons. The 6-foot, 190-pounder had 2,028 punting yards, averaging 39.8 a kick with 3 touchbacks. His longest in the 2019 season was a 68-yarder. He drilled 6-of-7 field goal attempts, with his longest measuring in at 49-yards. Lugo averaged 56.3 yards on kickoffs for a total of 2,308 yards on 41 kicks.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.