Glamour or scam? Teens’ use of substances in media

Kailah Lee | Staff Writer

Chances are, if you watch any film or series today, you will see someone using some sort of controlled substance. Whether that be a group of friends comforted by a bottle of booze, smoking cigarettes, or puffing on some “Zaza,” these instances are almost impossible to miss. 

Partaking in substance abuse is justified with older crowds because these actions are understood as adult behaviors. After 21, a person surpasses legal thresholds and is considered grown enough to decide what they should or should not put into their body–illegal or not. 

However, the issue is not adults participating in adult activities on TV. It is the media portraying normalcy in substance abuse among minors.

One might argue that producers are trying to capture the verisimilitude of a high school student. A television show may highlight the reality of events that could potentially happen at a high school party, but are these instances a sample of truth or an extreme? 

In the award-winning HBO hit series “Euphoria,” the story centers on the life of a teenager struggling with a narcotics addiction as well as other teenage turmoil. Although the show reveals the horror and sadness of substance abuse, there is a sense of glamour weaved into the idea of underage drinking and drug use. Scenes of pill-popping are embellished with glitter, neon lights and music.

“Not going to lie, seeing people smoking weed, hearing the music create the vibe and feeling of relaxation made me more curious to try it,” Hampton University student Jamaija Rhoades said. “It looked cool, if I’m being honest.” 

Psychologist Birgit Wolz told the Chicago Tribune that “many films transmit ideas through emotion rather than intellect. … Watching movies can open doors that otherwise might stay closed.”

Substance use usually is painted with the idea of a stressor. An alcoholic beverage can be associated with relief or a lavish event. Marijuana can be associated with a way to unwind and bond with peers. Being compelled to try drugs or engage in drinking is more than seeing the act. It’s also about the aesthetic. 

“Production companies have a way of making it all look beautiful and acceptable while the actors are not even teens,” Hampton alumnus Tyler McColley said.

Media companies cast older actors and actresses to play younger roles because employing minors is a greater liability. Minors have restrictions with hours and content.

According to Screenrant, older actresses and actors ensure that “all potential romances be legal.”

So, it’s OK for an adult to play a teen and assimilate illegal behavior, although that reality is taboo?

That just seems misleading.

HBO said “Euphoria” is actually for adults despite the content circling around teens. Still, the show is viewed more by teenagers than adults. Not to mention, the actress who plays Rue, the main character of “Euphoria,” is Zendaya, who was once a Disney star building her fanbase at a young age.

“Euphoria” is one of many examples of this phenomenon of substance abuse portrayal. There are an abundance of contradictions in the media. One minute there is a commercial demeaning nicotine use among teens, and in the next instance, a hit show is making the act look cool.

An older woman, Natane Herrera, thinks that “the media appeals to a younger audience because they’re looking for potential buy-ins. … With people my age, there’s no point in trying to sell us.”

We’ll never honestly know the media’s intentions. Maybe it’s a subliminal act of business. Perhaps the media is trying to push an image, or maybe it’s just to entertain.

“The media knows what it is doing,” said Amanda Jones, a writer from Charlotte, North Carolina, “and it will target those susceptible to its narrative.” 

The death of the modern movie theater

Ryland Staples | Staff Writer

Streaming has become everyone’s favorite pastime. We can all admit that since the pandemic started in March 2020, the number of shows and movies we stream on various streaming services has gone up. With the increasing numbers of streaming services going up, more and more money is being put toward different streaming platforms. With the recent announcement of Paramount+ and Discovery+, there are even more choices for people to make. 

I remember walking past my local movie theater recently, and it was a depressing sight. All of the doors were locked, and the inside was dark; it looked like nobody had visited since the pandemic started. I was kind of crestfallen. This was my movie theater, the one that I had gone to for most of my life. There were still posters from movies that were slated to come out last year, like Wonder Woman 1984, the new Fast and the Furious, Scooby-Doo and the Minions movie. Since then, all of those movies have been released on various streaming channels, mainly on HBO Max.  

This theater is the place I saw Avengers all the way back in 2012, where I had my first date, where I have all of these memories from growing up and it’s all boarded up. I know this is just a part of the long path to growing up. You see the businesses that you went to when you were younger close down and get replaced by new ones. But this isn’t Blockbuster or Hollywood Video being shut down by Redbox and Netflix. This is the entire movie theater industry as a whole grinding to a standstill. 

I still remember the last movie I saw before we went into lockdown. I had just gotten off my internship at WAVY 10/FOX 43, Spring Break had started and I was planning to drive back home the next morning. My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising had just been released in American movie theaters earlier that week, so I decided to see it right after I got off work. I went to see it, and it was all right, nothing to write home about, but I didn’t regret seeing it. 

Three weeks after that happened, the world shut down, and life changed as we know it. Since then, I haven’t been back to a movie theater, and that probably goes for a lot of people as well. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have relied on streaming services to watch new movies, as well as social media to talk about it with our friends. Which is fine. I’m not trying to say that talking about new movies like the new Justice League or Godzilla vs. Kong. 

What I am saying is that because of people feeling less safe being close to other people due to the pandemic, then there won’t be any more memorable moments at the movie theater. Take Avengers: Endgame or Infinity War. If those movies came out during the pandemic, I feel like it wouldn’t have felt the same. 

Now I am not saying that streaming services are inadequate. Quite the opposite, I think they’re great. But I also believe that you should not just wholly take movie theaters out of the picture.

Kinky chaos: Natural hair community split at the ends

Kailah Lee | Staff Writer

I hate to admit it, but the natural hair community has become toxic. The natural hair movement started as a way for women and men of color to get to know their complicated coils a little better. People were finally understanding their crowns, finding the right products and bonding with like-haired people. However, while the movement transgressed into a community of hair love and self-appreciation, it quickly made room for natural hair discrimination, otherwise known as texturism.

From loose curls to coils and kinky follicles, hair texture has always been a larger part of a Black women’s identity. Black hair is a sensitive topic, but that’s a part of the reason the natural hair community became louder and more prevalent. Natural hair was no longer this social taboo or mystery. However, the natural hair movement stirred away from uplifting all natural hair types and more to idolizing a bouncier, looser curl.

Textured or afro hair—type 4 hair (4b/4c)—has a bad reputation for some, including some Black women.

“I just hate nappy hair. Some people can pull it off, but it won’t be me,” said Evelyn Williams, a hairstylist from Richmond, Virginia. 

Some sisters feel that their textured natural hair makes them less valuable.

“I feel less beautiful wearing my unmanipulated natural hair,” said Ebony Jackson, a natural hair advocate. 

However, when examining how natural hair products are marketed, it’s usually represented with imagery of bigger, looser curls—type 3 hair. 

In an article with HuffPost, Afronomenal, a 22-year-old from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, reiterates that “A lot of the natural hair companies are really showing you this image of bouncy 3c/4a curls and never type 4 hair,” and thus women buy these products because they “had been sold this idea that this product would make their hair look a certain type of way.” 

This perspective is unfair because hair products are not magic potions. Type 4 hair can exist without a curl pattern. There is such a thing as straight 4c hair. There’s just too much emphasis placed on having defined curls instead of the diversity of natural hair. 

“Honestly, we should focus on the health of the hair rather than the curl type…damaged and neglected hair should be how society sees a healthy textured woman,” said Bernice Jones, a Virginia resident.

Through years of societal manipulations, type 4 hair is looked at by some as unprofessional, unkempt and unattractive. 

Mayowa Osinubi, a filmmaker, natural hair advocate and host of the YouTube channel “Mayowa’s World,” talks about getting “dragged” by the natural hair community for putting textured 4c hair on display. Osinubi was called “dirty “and “ugly,” all for taking a picture with natural, type 4 hair.

“I feel like I’m not considered a natural hair person because I don’t fit the image people were hoping to see,” Osinubi said.

The natural hair community has been contradicting itself over the years, and the stigmas placed on type 4 hair have divided the people even more.

What started as a way to unify Black hair mutated into a monster allowing underlying feelings of colorism and texturism to thrive.

“I love all my natural hair sisters, but I have more love for my sisters with the comb-breaking, bicep burning, job losing—thick, thin, dirty and unkempt nappy hair white women used to make us shave… I ain’t a part of a community selling me solutions in a bottle…I am for me, and my healthy, ugly hair,” poet Krystal Davis said. “All of our progress happens within us, not from natural hair companies owned by white families.”

Hampton’s Student Recruitment Team Holds Their Annual Intake Week

Vashti Dorman | Staff Writer

Photo byHampton University Student Recruitment Team

From March 25-30, the Hampton University Student Recruitment Team (SRT) held their intake week virtually with the fresh, inviting theme of “Bridgerton,” a popular Netflix show that was recently released and quickly took social media by storm. The week started with a teaser video announcing the commencement of the week and the subject for each proceeding event. 

“Whoever edited that video did an outstanding job because I thought I was seeing an ad for the actual show,” said Briana Previlon, a third-year political science major from Boston, Massachusetts. 

SRTis a student organization that assists with the recruitment of high school students from the Hampton Roads area and around the country. The organization hosts annual events such as Highschool Day, Open House and Honors Visitation weekend, which allows prospective students to get a glimpse of Hampton University. The Student Recruitment Team also gives tours throughout the year to students and families interested in seeing the campus and learning more about what programs Hampton has to offer. 

With much buzz created around the Bridgerton themed promotional video, many Hampton Students were revved up to attend the Student Recruitment Team’s events. 

“I saw the flyers all down my timeline, plus I love the show Bridgerton,” said Cheri Manning, a third-year psychology major from Rochester, New York. “I was definitely excited after seeing the theme.” 

The first event held was the “SR Tea Party” which was a meeting for all students interested in getting more information on SRT and how to apply for membership. Many fresh Hampton faces joined the zoom call, seeming excited and dressed to impress in business professional attire. 

The subsequent events took place the following week on Monday, March 29, with their A Family Affair, interactive game night. This event was for current SRT members and students interested in joining SRT to bond through different games and activities. 

On Tuesday, March 30, SRT held an event titled The Royal Ball. The event included a speed dating activity designed for prospective members to get to know each of the SRT team members personally. 

SRT developed a system that allows current team members to connect to current high school students by text message and email. Each member was assigned a mentee who could ask them any questions about attending Hampton, applying, scholarships, etc. This new initiative is called Pirate Talks. This allowed many SRT members to stay involved in the recruitment process while being virtual. 

“The Student Recruitment Team to me is a welcoming and accepting family organization that helps prospective students find that one-of-a-kind college experience,” said Raven Harper, a third-year journalism major, marketing minor from Houston, Texas. “Whether that’s at Hampton or not, we get to give back to the community by helping them decide what’s best for them and what to look for in a college/university; them coming to Hampton is the bonus.” 

Hampton University SGA Elections: The Race Begins for Fall 2021

 Noa Cadet | Staff Writer

March 23 marked the beginning of Hampton University’s annual SGA Elections. Coordinated by Hampton University’s Office of  Student Activities in conjunction with the Student Government Association (SGA), candidates from across the university filled in their applications to run for class and SGA office positions. 

This year, SGA positions such as SGA President, SGA Vice-President and Representative to the Board of Trustees are available to current candidates. In addition to SGA positions, student leadership positions are also available for the rising senior, junior and sophomore classes. 

According to the Assistant Director of Student Activities, Kristina Janes, the voting period will officially begin on Friday, April 9,  from 9 AM Eastern Time to 4 PM Eastern Time.  During this window, students can vote for leadership positions within SGA, as well as for whom they want for leadership positions within their respective class. Before the voting window opens up, Hampton students will receive an email with instructions on how to vote via a Blackboard link. This link is also to be distributed through both the Student Activities and SGA Instagram accounts.

Due to the nature of remote learning, in-person campaigns and the spreading of fliers throughout the school is impossible, so how can one still effectively campaign and spread their name throughout the school?

According to Janes, candidates can post fliers on their respective social media accounts, which can only be reposted by members of their campaign team, which is submitted along with their application. These posts can be fliers but can also be videos or other forms of media. In addition to social media posts, candidates are also able to hold up to one social campaign event via remote meeting mediums such as Instagram Live or Zoom. However, to hold these events officially, candidates must inform HU Student Activities before making the event public. This allows a Hampton University official to attend the event and ensure that the proceedings are held to a standard and that the campaign remains fair. 

“I suggest creating an appealing and concise flyer that talks about why you’re running, what your vision and goals are, and when voting is,” says Hampton University Student Senator Gabriel Lewis. 

When asked how to effectively campaign during a period in which in-person campaign tactics cannot be utilized, Lewis was quick to offer his suggestions.

“Have a group of friends as a part of your campaign, willing to spread your flyers and promotional material and ensure your name gets out there. Also, use your one campaign event towards the end of the campaign period to make sure voters know your name and face and get the chance to meet you before the voting period so that you are still fresh on their minds on Election Day. Also, make sure you get everything approved by Hampton University, and that you follow up with them to ensure your material gets approved quickly,” said Lewis. 

With April 9 just over the horizon, there is still time for candidates to spread their name and make sure that they are in the minds of every voter come Election Day.  As for voters, make sure you get out there and vote for your chosen candidate!

Cymmone Yancey, CEO of C.N.D.Y Aesthetics, on Being a Student Entrepreneur

Nicole Pechacek | Staff Writer

Photo by Martine Yancy

Cymmone Yancey is a student entrepreneur who has experienced a lot of success with her brand, C.N.D.Y Aesthetics. On her Instagram, she has amassed over 1,000 followers and rose to prominence despite the pandemic. In this Q&A, Yancy discusses how she started her business and grown her brand. 

NP: How did you come about starting your business, C.N.D.Y Aesthetics?

CY: I guess it’s unconventional in a way. I’ve always had an affinity for business and finance and I wanted to find a way to create a business. One, to gain experience so that I could continue to establish a greater business later on in life, and two, as a means to kind of bring self-fulfillment. Every day is kind of boring, and don’t get me wrong I love my major, but having something that I can call mine that brings happiness to other people in the same way it brings happiness to me is different. Being able to start something like that is something I really wanted to do.

NP: What made you want to go into the beauty industry?

CY: You’ll note in my store that there’s not a wide range of beauty products. We’re going to expand our market soon, but I focused my interests on the areas of beauty I was truly interested in, so our biggest market right now is lipgloss and lashes. Anyone that knows me knows I love lip gloss. I may not be a ‘super get-up every day slap makeup on my face and hit the town’ kind of person, but you’ll rarely find me going out the house without a balm lip gloss on.

NP: So you’ve always had an affinity for beauty products?

CY: Yeah, I have. There’s a sort of humbleness that comes with beauty products. You are beautiful, so you don’t need the products, but it’s something you like, something you enjoy. It’s something you want to incorporate into your daily routine. I’m not going to sell anything I wouldn’t wear myself. Having a source for that is something I find important, especially for our demographic and age group.

NP: Do you make any of your products? If not, do you plan to?

CY: All of the products currently in my store are sourced from individual providers. I am working on lip-gloss products of my own. I’m not going to put them on the market until I feel they’re the best they can be, and right now I don’t feel that they are.

NP: Do you feel like your business has been successful? Do you feel like it needs improvement?

CY: I feel like anyone who says their business doesn’t require improvement is full of it. I honestly have a lot of room for growth. It picked up during the pandemic. I didn’t start funneling a lot of resources into my website until January. I do want to improve, but as of right now, I’ve had over 20 sales in the last two months, all of which were substantial orders, so I think I’m doing pretty good. 

NP: How do you advertise off-campus?

CY: One of the biggest things I like to do is experiment with marketing. So what I’ve found is if you build your social media platform in the right way. Your business will thrive without outside network influence, and that’s what I wanted to establish first and then bring that influence in. I feel as though currently, I’ve established my market. I have a good feel for the type of audience I’ve been attracting, and all of my customers have been people I do not know. They have solely come to my page through the marketing campaigns I’ve put out there. You don’t need to spend money on a photographer for those. I’ve taken pictures with my phone. The cutouts I’ve done with basic software on my computer. I plug in a picture, hit a button, and it’s done. That way I’m not wasting money on elaborate marketing campaigns.

NP: Do you have any general business tips you could give to fellow students?

CY: I think the number one thing is patience. There are a lot of people who say they want to start a new business because they want money, but they don’t want to work for it which is completely the wrong mentality. I’m a full-time student. I have a part-time job as a software engineer for Home Depot. There’s no need for me to even own a business. My career is substantial, so the money isn’t what I’m after. I’m after the experience. 

Follow C.N.D.Y Aesthetics @cndy.aesthetics on Instagram to catch deals and see what Cymmone has in her store next. Visit her website.

Virginia Becomes the 4th State to Ban Animal-Tested Cosmetics

Jourdyn Grandison | Staff Writer

An increasing number of states in the country are prohibiting animal-tested cosmetics. Virginia is the latest to join the list that already includes California, Nevada, and Illinois. 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the Humane Cosmetics Act into law on March 16, formally prohibiting cosmetics manufacturers from “conducting or contracting for cosmetic animal testing [within the state]” and selling animal-tested products. The law will go in effect in January of 2022. 

This isn’t the first time the Virginia legislature has taken steps to ban animal research in favor of humane alternatives. In 2018, Virginia State Senator Jennifer Boysko’s bill was signed into law, prohibiting state research facilities from using animals to test cosmetics and household goods when a valid alternative test method is available.

Several other states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Hawaii, and New York, may also pass similar laws in the future, according to ABC News. The rise in state-specific anti-animal testing legislation is expected to be part of a more significant state-by-state effort.

“This is a great move for Virginia because this can spark a national change in the cosmetics industry,” said Sierra Williams, a senior economics major. “Brands have already begun shifting to being cruelty-free, so maybe Virginia’s ban may be what pushes for a more environmentally conscious society.” 

The Humane Cosmetics Act’s passing is the second time in recent years that Virginia legislators have been at the forefront of national legislation for animal testing. Virginia Congressman, Jim Moran, sponsored the first federal Humane Cosmetics Act in 2013. Moran’s successor, Congressman Don Beyer, has championed the law with bipartisan support.

Monica Engebretson, Head of Public Affairs of the North American division of Cruelty-Free International believes that Virginia’s law will help pass the law at a federal level.

“We are delighted that Virginia has continued to be a national leader in ending animal testing for cosmetics,” said Engebretson. “This is a significant step not just for Virginia but for the entire US, as history has shown that state activity leads to changes at the federal level.”

NHL gets deal with ESPN

Aliyu Saadu | Staff Writer

AP Photo by Nam Y. Huh

ESPN and the NHL announced a seven-year television deal March 10. The new deal will have 100 regular-season games per year on ABC, ESPN, ESPN+ and Hulu. Twenty-five games will be on ABC, ESPN and ESPN +, and Hulu will add 75 ESPN-produced exclusive games to the streaming services starting in the fall.   

The network will air an early-round playoff series and one conference final each year. It also will air four Stanley Cup Final series on ABC during the seven-year deal.  

This deal in the U.S. is huge. More people will watch the NHL more than ever. More people will talk about it on “SportsCenter” and other platforms in the U.S.  The ratings will go up. Casual fans will be more interested in the sport.  

Fans in the U.S. will see superstars such as Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews and others on ESPN during the season. I believe the league will be covered a lot more than ever on ESPN. The network provides the NHL the possibility of increasing its exposure not just because games will be aired, but also via the strength of ESPN sports talk shows such as “First Take” and “Around the Horn.”

 NBCSN is a channel that is hard to find and, according to the Daily Mountain Eagle, is in 80.1 million homes. ESPN is in 83.1 million homes. That 3 million makes a difference in how many more people will be able to watch the NHL on ESPN as opposed to NBCSN.

This deal means so much to the sport of hockey. For the first time in a long time, hockey has an opportunity to become recognized and respected as a top four major professional sport in North America. Sports analysts such as Max Kellerman have publicly stated the NHL is not a top four major sport.  

The sports will be supported by the ESPN family of networks, ESPN+, ESPN.com and NHL.TV. These platforms will generate more fans than the league has had. More people will want to play hockey in the U.S. Social media outlets will buzz more about McDavid than they ever have since McDavid has been in the league. 

The thing about ESPN is that if your sport is not part of the rights on ESPN, they do not cover you as much. The NHL learned that for 17 years when the league was not part of ESPN’s sports. The league finally will be able to have highlights nightly on more platforms more often.  According to statista, since NBC acquired the rights in 2005-06, the Stanley Cup Final ratings have averaged less than a 4.0. The Stanley Cup Final this past year between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars averaged a 1.2 rating, lowest since 2007. When ABC airs the Stanley Cup Final next year, the ratings will go up.  

This was the best decision the league has made in its history. For the NHL to be on ESPN again makes the league accessible to the younger generation. The league will relish this partnership with ESPN.

NBA prospects have shining and struggling moments in March

Cameron Crocheron | Staff Writer

AP Photo Courtesy of Paul Sancya

The month of March has always been an exciting time for college basketball fans with the NCAA Tournament, but it’s also the last time for NBA scouts to evaluate the top college prospects in the country. 

March Madness is the perfect time for prospects to prove their worth as the tournament showcases some of the greatest upsets in NCAA history with 7.6 million viewers watching this year, according to the NCAA’s website. While some prospects are continuing to shine under the pressure, others have struggled unexpectedly. 

Cade Cunningham | Oklahoma State University 

As of right now, Cunningham is still the consensus No. 1 draft prospect in the country and is a finalist for the 2021 Naismith Trophy. Cunningham has been looked at as the best prospect in his class since he left Montverde Academy for Oklahoma State in which he played a vital role in putting the Cowboys back on the map in college basketball. 

Ultimately, Cunningham and Oklahoma State had an underwhelming tournament run after getting knocked out of the tournament in the second round by Oregon State University.  In the two games Cunningham played, he averaged 19.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. During those two games, Cunningham struggled to make shots, shooting just over 26 percent from the field and 31 percent from behind the 3-point line. Cunningham’s draft projection hasn’t changed, but his performance showed NBA scouts the flaws in his game. 

Cameron Thomas | Louisiana State University 

Thomas, arguably the best pure scorer in his class and a projected late first-round pick, averaged 28.5 points per game in LSU’s two tournament matchups. The 6-foot-4 freshman guard from Oak Hill Academy turned heads after scoring 30 points against No. 1 seed Michigan despite the loss in the round of 32. 

Thomas certainly helped his draft stock after proving to be an NBA-ready scorer, but he still faces criticism for being one of the worst perimeter defenders in the upcoming draft class. Thomas hasn’t declared for the 2021 NBA Draft just yet as he still remains as one of the more volatile prospects. ESPN currently ranks Thomas at 14 on its top draft prospects list.

Jalen Suggs | Gonzaga

Since the start of Gonzaga’s season, Suggs has risen on every NBA draft big board. Suggs has led his team to be the overall No. 1 team in the country as the Zags remain the favorites to win it all. However, the freshman has struggled to find his shot in the tournament thus far. The freshman combo guard has shot 33 percent from the field and 11 percent from 3 through his first two tournament games but broke out in the Elite Eight with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists against Southern Cal. 

Evan Mobley | USC

Mobley and his brother, Isaiah, helped the USC Trojans reach the Elite Eight, including a rout of No. 3 seed Kansas 85-51 in the second round. The 7-foot big man averaged a double-double in points and rebounds through his first two tournament games and finished with 17 points and five rebounds in the Elite Eight loss to Gonzaga. Mobley is currently a projected top-5 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft after showing signs of being the modern-day NBA big man with the ability to shoot and handle around the perimeter. He still has an underdeveloped physical frame, but his ability to protect the rim certainly makes up for it as he’s averaging three blocks per game in the tournament. 

Ayo Dosunmu | Illinois

Outside of Ohio State losing to Oral Roberts, the Fighting Illini’s loss to Loyola Chicago in the second round may have been the biggest shocker. Dosunmu turned the ball over six times in Illinois’ loss and scored only nine points. Despite the loss, the junior combo guard has been one of the better two-way players in the country and has played an integral role in turning Illinois into one of the best teams in college basketball. Like Thomas, Dosunmu’s draft projection is highly volatile and could depend upon the fit, situation and team.

NFL HBCU Combine to feature two from HU

Colangelo Parker | Staff Writer

Courtesy of HU Athletics

All across the sports world, leagues have increased their efforts to highlight the importance of historically Black colleges and universities.

Now the NFL is shining a spotlight on HBCUs.

The inaugural NFL HBCU Combine will be hosted by UAB—the University of Alabama at Birmingham—on April 9 and 10. Draft hopefuls, including Hampton University quarterback Deondre Francois and HU receiver Cortez Lewis, will be able to showcase their skills ahead of the April 29-May 1 NFL Draft.

“I love what the NFL is doing—kudos to them,” said Hampton University football coach Robert Prunty, who played football at Alabama A&M and graduated from that HBCU in 1988. “I think the combine is great! I think it is long overdue. HBCUs continue to put out great players, so it is a great idea by the NFL to have the HBCU combine. [There are] so many good players at HBCUs that get overlooked. I think those young men deserve the opportunity to showcase their talent.”

Francois and Lewis were among 42 players representing 27 HBCUs who were invited and are on track to participate April 9. 

“I’m extremely proud of them both,” Prunty said. “The amount of work those guys have put in to get where they are at is tremendous.”

The HBCU Combine was planned for 2020 but was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many pro days last year were canceled as well, leaving draft prospects with limited exposure to NFL scouts.

“We are fully committed to exploring ways to enhance player evaluation for professional football teams and giving every deserving player the opportunity to have his talent assessed by pro scouts,” said Phillip Blackwell, executive director of the HBCU Combine, in an interview with hbcugameday.com.

In the 2020 NFL Draft, there was only one player selected from an HBCU. Tennessee State University offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons was picked No. 227 overall in the seventh round by the Chicago Bears.

The combine event will feature physical drills and tests that will be administered and performed to the NFL Regional Combine regulations. The two-day event also will feature an HBCU Combine Recognition Dinner on April 9. The dinner, featuring guest speaker and HBCU graduate Darryl Orlando Ledbetter, will highlight the legacy of HBCU football.

Stephen A. Smith, host of ESPN’s “First Take” and a Winston-Salem State alumnus, will attend the recognition dinner and provide each player with a travel assistance grant to help reduce traveling costs to the combine.