NFL draft, HBCU

Willie Drew, Virginia State Standout, Has A Solid 40-Yard Dash Performance, Poised For NFL Success After Showcase

'No matter how big or small the school is, if you’re a good player, a good person at heart, they’ll come find you,' said Drew.

Virginia State cornerback Willie Drew ran a solid 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, clocking an official time of 4.46.

The NFL Scouting Combine is a four-day, invitation-only event that allows NFL scouts to evaluate that year’s top draft-eligible college players on various medical, mental, and physical criteria. Only 300 or so players attend each year.

As HBCU Legends reported, Drew’s 1.57 10-yard split is an indication that he has remarkable closing speed. Scouts like CBS Sports analyst Emory Hunt believe he has the coverage skills to contribute at the next level. Still, Hunt also indicated ahead of the combine that Drew’s initial path to the field in the NFL will most likely be through special teams. Hunt wanted to see if Drew would showcase his leaping ability at the NFL Combine, but Drew only ran the 40-yard dash. 

Drew transferred to Virginia State from James Madison University, a perennial powerhouse at the DII level. In an interview with HBCU Sports, he said that Virginia State was the first school to give him an opportunity to play football again, and he jumped at the opportunity. Drew repaid the faith the athletic program showed him by being named the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year thanks to his ability to shadow receivers and his totals of 34 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, six interceptions, and 16 passes defensed. As Andscape reports, Drew became the first player in school history to receive an invite to the Senior Bowl, an all-star game for some of the nation’s best performers, and for Drew, it was a chance to compete against better competition. 

Drew told Andscape that the jump in competition wasn’t a challenge for him, but scouts said that Drew had an uneven performance at the Senior Bowl, something Drew attributes to needing to adjust his technique. 

“[The Senior Bowl] was a great experience from going from the [Division II] level and then going against some of the best players in the world,” he said. “It wasn’t a challenge, but I had to make some adjustments [to] my technique.”

Virginia State head coach Henry Frazier III told the outlet that despite all the attention Drew received, he didn’t turn into a different person; he kept a level head.

“We had all 32 teams come [to Virginia State]. It seemed like every practice, there was an NFL team there to watch him,” Frazier said. “And he was very consistent. It didn’t go to his head. He wasn’t one of those prima donna-type kids. He’s a humble guy. … It’s hard to find those 6-foot corners that are [as] physical as Willie.”

After praising players from HBCUs and other DII schools currently in the NFL, Drew also acknowledged something that retired players from HBCUs, such as Michael Strahan, have been saying for years: If you are good enough, the NFL will come find you.

“I believe those guys that did get drafted from the CIAA laid a foundation, not only for the CIAA but for the other [Division II] guys coming up as well,” Drew said. “That’s a blessing just to show that you can make it from anywhere. No matter how big or small the school is, if you’re a good player, a good person at heart, they’ll come find you.”

Frazier believes Drew has a high upside; if placed in the proper position with good stability around him, he believes Drew could excel at the next level. 

“[He’s a] lockdown cornerback that’ll take your best receiver. He did that for us, and he relished those opportunities,” Frazier said. “So I think when he gets to a nice, fluid situation with coaching and be able to get that training for two or three years, I can see Willie Drew being an All-Pro cornerback. I really can’t wait to see that happen.” 

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