DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 22: Tarik Cohen #29 of the Chicago Bears runs back a kick against a diving Zach Zenner #34 of the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at Ford Field on November 22, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images
Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images

Cohen, Leonard named HBCU pro players of the year 

Chicago Bears running back and return specialist Takik Cohen and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard were named the Black College Football pro players of the year, presented by the NFLPA. 

The award recognizes the most outstanding professional football player from a Historically Black College and University. Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea was selected as the inaugural recipient in 2017.

Cohen attended North Carolina A&T, from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), and was drafted by the Chicago Bears in 2017.

During the 2018 season, Cohen rushed for 444 rushing yards and three touchdowns. He also had 71 catches for 725 yards and five touchdowns, along with a league-leading 411 punt return yards.  

He was named to the 2019 Pro Bowl roster and First Team All-Pro as a return specialist.

Leonard played for Coach Buddy Pough at South Carolina State, and was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Leonard finished his rookie season with 163 combined tackles (111 solo), eight pass deflections, seven sacks and one interception. His 163 tackles led the NFL and broke the Colts’ franchise record.

Leonard was named NFL defensive rookie of the year, first-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl.

The formal presentation of the awards will be made at the Black College Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on February 16, 2019 in Atlanta. 

“This award was established to shine a light on the immense talent of current Black College Football players at the highest level,” said James “Shack” Harris, BCFHOF Co-Founder and 2012 inductee.

“Today, there are about 30 players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities on active NFL rosters,” said DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA executive director. “Some of the best players in NFL history are from HBCUs, and it’s exciting to honor today’s stars.”

The 2019 Black College Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, presented by the Atlanta Falcons, takes place at the College Football Hall of Fame. The 2018 Black College Football player of the year will also be announced during the ceremony. 

“On behalf of the Black College Football Hall of Fame Trustees and Selection Committee, we congratulate Tarik and Darius on this historic accomplishment,” said Doug Williams, BCFHOF co-founder and 2011 inductee. “These men are great role models and an inspiration for youth across the country.”

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.