Two HBCU prospects winners at NFL scouting combine

INDIANAPOLIS – Howard offensive tackle Anim Dankwah and Virginia State cornerback Willie Drew were two of the biggest winners at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Dankwah and Drew were the only players from an Historical Black College or University (HBCU) to participate in the workouts.

Dankwah, who is 6-foot-8 and 362 pounds, was the biggest player in the building. Drew, who started his career at James Madison, held his own.

“It’s a step closer to the goal,” said Dankwah, who benched pressed 225 pounds, 24 times. “I intend to show the pro scouts that I’ve got good movement skills. Obviously, I’m built for the part. Now, I just have to come out here and show them that I can move pretty fluidly and give myself a chance.”

Dankwah, who helped the Bison win back-to-back MEAC titles and played in the Celebration Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in January had a 27 5/8 inch vertical jump.

“The MEAC is a pretty competitive FCS (conference),” Dankwah said. “We’ve had a few guys get a shot at the NFL at least every year. This year I’m blessed to be one of them, so I’m blessed to get this opportunity.”

The Bison nearly upset Northwestern last season before losing 23-20.

“Northwestern was a good game,” Dankwah said. “I’m sure they didn’t think much of us when we came in there. We were ready to go. We were ready to play. Everybody on our team was locked in. We were all focused on winning. I wasn’t able to finish the whole game. I played up until the third quarter when I suffered an ankle injury. I was cheering on my teammates.”

Eden James, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Edgerrin James, was Howard’s featured back. He gained lot of his yards running behind Dankwah.

Dankwah moved to Canada from Ghana at the age of nine. Dankwah was late to the game of football as he didn’t start playing until the 11th grade.

He had an informal interview with the Buccaneers and met with the Falcons during the East-West Shrine Bowl week.

“I was talking to (Browns tight end) David Njoku, who trains at our facility,” Dankwah said. “There are a lot of Nigerians over here. This year, I just happened to the be only Ghanian over here. ... Sports work well for kids who come from a place where I come from.

“We’re not given a lot of opportunities and sports kind of like embodies everything that we’re about. Hard-working people. We want to get it anyway we can. Playing sports is an escape for most of us. We keep fighting and we keep coming here.”

Drew, who also played in the Senior Bowl, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 and 4.47 seconds.

“It’s a journey,” Drew said. “God has a plan. You just have got to follow his plan. Everything will work out for you.”

He was named the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s defensive player of the year after racking up six interceptions and 16 pass breakups last season.

“I’m a ball-hawk” Drew said. “Off man. Press man. Zone coverage. All of it.”

Drew, who’s from Smithfield, Va., said James Madison took away his scholarship after he got hurt in the seventh game of the 2019 season.

“My grades went down,” Drew said. “They pulled my scholarship on Jan. 2 of 2020. Then I went to school for year at JMU and then after that, I hit the transfer portal. Virginia State was the first opportunity that presented itself to me. I jumped on it. That’s all I needed was a second chance.”

Drew, who 6-foot and 191 pounds, tried to make the most of his Senior Bowl invitation.

“It was a great experience for me to be the only D II (Division II) player there,” Drew said. “It was a great experience. Just showing that I can play with the best of the best coming from a DII level and then going against the best receivers in the world was a blessing.”

There were some rough spots.

“I thought he was a little up and down at the Senior Bowl getting the opportunity to play against some better players,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “But that’s a great time (in the 40-yard dash).”

Here are some of the other winners at the NFL scouting combine:

--Troy running back Kimani Vidal: The former Marietta High standout ran the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds, had a 37 feet, 5 inch vertical jump and lifted 225 pounds, 18 times on the bench press.

--Florida state tight end Jaheim Bell: He played at Valdosta High. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds and had a 35-inch vertical jump.

--Pittsburgh wide receiver Bub Means (Lovejoy HS): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and lifted 225-pounds 19 times on the bench press, the second highest total of the wide receiver group.

--Georgia offensive lineman Amarius Mims: At 6-foot-8, 340 pounds, he ran the 40-yard dash in 5.07 seconds. He was compared to former Auburn and Chargers offensive tackle Marcus McNeil (Cedar Grove). McNeil played from 2006-11 before injury cut his career short. “He looks like an avenger,” Jeremiah said after Mims’ fast run.

Here are some of the losers:

--Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.: He did not participate in the drills and blew off his media interview. Coming out of the combine, LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers has moved in front of Harrison. His approach has likely cost him millions. Last year’s fourth overall pick (Anthony Richardson) had a $33.9 million deal. The eighth pick (Bijan Robinson) had $21.9 million deal. So a slight slip of four spots would cost Harrison $12 million on his first contract.

--USC quarterback Caleb Williams: His rationale for not going through the medical evaluations could be troublesome. Now, if he does medicals for the team visits, he’ll have to go through repetitive testing. At the combine, it’s one-stop shopping for all 32 teams. Before the Bears, with the No. 1 overall pick, decide to commit to a $40 million contract, they’ll need to do some medical testing. Also, this fuels the notion that Williams has an injury to hide.

--Georgia tight end Brock Bowers: He wasn’t expected to work out and will do so at Georgia’s Pro Day on March 13. This extra time gives teams reason to believe they can find a tight end in the later rounds. Travis Kelce was a third-round pick and George Kittle was a fifth-round pick.

Virginia State cornerback Willie Drew at the NFL Scouting Combine in 20214.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

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