Sports | September 1st, 2020

Calvin Ashley Sets Sights on the NFL Draft

By: Ezekiel Hobbs
Calvin Ashley Sets Sights on the NFL Draft

Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) offensive tackle Calvin Ashley announced via social media that he will forgo the upcoming football season due to the coronavirus and begin his preparation for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. 

“Due to the cancellation of our season in the Fall, I will spend this time training and preparing myself mentally and physically,” said Ashley in a tweet. After expressing gratitude for his wife, his parents and his time with the FAMU Rattlers, the senior states, “With that being said, I will be foregoing my senior season and declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft.”

The 6-foot-7-inch, 330-pound player started seven games as a right tackle last season for the Rattlers and was looking forward to a solid redshirt junior season until the pandemic hit. With the pandemic still spreading across the country, the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) suspended its fall sports calendar.

“If COVID-19 wasn’t going on I’ll more than likely still be playing football for FAMU,” said Ashley. However, Ashley decided to do what’s best for his family. With a wife and a son to provide for, his family was the ultimate reason that led him to go and train.

When announcing the news on social media many of Ashley’s teammates and coaches supported his decision and wished him nothing but the best.

“I was very happy to know that somebody of caliber from FAMU decided to take that next step,” said FAMU teammate Bryan Crawford. “Knowing that I’ll be coming out of college in the next few years he’s going to start a new wave for many players here at FAMU.”

Crawford was training with Ashley for the upcoming college season running drills that consist of the ins and outs of the offensive line as the center. 

FAMU’s head coach, Willie Simmons also supported Ashley’s decision to go and train for the 2021 NFL Draft. He believes if a player of his dreams to be on a professional football team then they should go for it, even if it appears they may have a one in a million chance. 

“I encourage and support all my players that want to go to the NFL,” said Simmons. “Because it’s like why start something if you’re not going to go all the way with it. I wish Mr. Ashley nothing but the best on his new journey.” 

In total, FAMU has had 66 players drafted since 1953, with the last player being Brandon Hepburn who got picked by the Detroit Lions in the seventh round in 2013. HBCUs are not traditionally considered the powerhouses for college football. Although, players from these institutions are frequently drafted into the NFL. In fact, 10 percent of the players who are inducted in the NFL Football Hall of Fame were HBCU draftees.

HBCUs still serve as institutions for higher learning, but the athletic departments especially regarding top sports like football and basketball are losing out on big-time recruits to bigger schools that have more funding for their sports programs. This is a problem for HBCUs for many reasons. However, HBCU football programs like FAMU hope a shift happens where their players get the exposure they deserve and get drafted in higher rounds by big-time recruits. 

“I would like to see more HBCU players go to the draft because knowing what an HBCU player has to bring and the attributes that we carry, I believe we are capable of playing on prime time television,” said Crawford. 

Before deciding to move back to Orlando to receive more rigorous training, Ashley was receiving training for the 2021 NFL Draft from Florida A&M University Hall of Famer and Baltimore Ravens All-Time Team nominee Wally Williams. During his tenure as a professional athlete with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints, Williams was able to excel as an undrafted free agent. The training sessions consisted of many conditioning, endurance and strengthening workouts where Williams said he witnessed Ashley’s tremendous potential. 

“As an athlete that experienced the NFL and wanting to give back to my university I offered my services to Mr. Ashley,” said Williams. “Athletes that want to take that next step I try to prepare them physically and most importantly mentally because the NFL is a huge business.” 

Williams mentioned he always made it very aware to Ashley that he has to be mentally prepared for everything that comes his way in the midst of their conversation about training for the NFL draft. “With the decision I made I feel like everything is teaching me different things along the way,” explained Ashley. “It’s a business process now and more about branding myself.” 

Ashley is one of many players in the nation who opted out of the 2020 collegiate season due to COVID-19 concerns. Top ranking college players such as Wake Forest star wide receiver Sage Surratt, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman made the same decision as Ashley. 

Despite the stiff competition and the many sources that say which college players are most likely to get drafted into the NFL next year, Ashley is feeling optimistic and confident in his skills that it will be hard for professional teams to overlook. 

“I would be blessed and happy to get picked up from any team really, that’s just me as a person,” said Ashley.