NCAA football has its senior bowl. The NFL has its Pro Bowl. The CFL has its All Star awards, and now HBCUs have their very own player showcase: the Pigskin Showdown. 2022 marks the second year of the event after its inaugural occurrence in 2021. 84 HBCU players from across the country will be given the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of scouts, coaches, and executives from both the NFL and CFL. The game will be held on Saturday, December 17 at the David J. Robinson Memorial Stadium on the campus of the Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama, and will be broadcast on CNBC and Peacock.
Pigskin Showdown Founders
Both Chris Williams, Executive Director and Co-Founder, and Bryant Grove, Director of Operations and Co- Founder, were quite the football players themselves before becoming professional football coaches and scouts. They have both been involved in the football industry for about 25 years now. Both are natives of Mobile, Alabama, and you might think their lives would have crossed paths at a young age. However, the two grew up living very separate lives until fate stepped in to bring them together to launch what could be the beginning of something historic in the African American community.
How to watch the 2022 HBCU Pigskin Showdown: TV channel, live stream info, for Saturday’s all-star game
History of the event
The cities of Selma and Marion, Alabama sit deep down in the heart of the civil rights movement. Around the mid-1960s, African Americans were on the track to gain voting rights. Like anything else for the African American community back then, it was a difficult road towards equality and opportunity, and several protests were held to get what they wanted and needed. Two of the most memorable marches during this time were held in Selma and Marion.
Just five months after the March on Selma, “The Voting Rights Act of 1965”, was passed. After immeasurable hours of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears, yet another goal had been accomplished in the African American community. A goal that would impact generations to come.
Countless times African American history goes unnoticed or uncelebrated, but these two men, Williams and Grove, are determined to “bring light” to a time in our world we tend to let slip our minds. In recent years the demand for students attending HBCUs has significantly increased. Combining that modern trajectory with a respect for history, both Williams and Grove had a vision and took full advantage of the opportunity.
To shine a light on Selma and Marion and that deep history the cities hold, the best way Williams and Grove could think of was to bring a little friendly competition to the area. Not only does the Pigskin Showdown bring attention to those players chosen to participate, but it also educates everyone involved on the importance of voting rights in the African American community.
The game was started with the intention of helping both scouts and players determine if the NFL or CFL was in fact the route to take. This event gives scouts a closer look at players away from their regular teams and teammates, shining a light on their individual talents.
“HBCUs are so important to our nation,” Grove said in an interview with NBC Sports.
This opportunity is one like no other for HBCU football players. It’s not everyday someone is offered the chance to play in a postseason game in front of scouts, executives, and coaches on a pro level.
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What to expect for this year
There are two teams for the game: Team Selma and Team Marion. Teams are comprised of student-athletes from HBCUs all over, including but not limited to: Jackson State University, Howard University, Southern University, Florida A&M University, and several others. Players are chosen by the founders and the Pigskin Showdown’s newly-hired scouting team. Generally, these players are young men who are already on the NFL or CFL radar. However, the event also features a nomination process for players who may have flown under the radar.
This year the event has solidified attendance from scouting representatives from 20 NFL teams and 2 CFL teams. The game will also be broadcast via Peacock and CNBC at 1 p.m. ET. “This is a great opportunity to give pro prospects even more exposure,” said Williams as he explained the value of the game.
To make the competition more exciting, the mayor from the city representing the winning team will be presented with the game trophy and allowed to keep it until the following year. Each year the competition will get a bit more intense as the showdown starts to gain more and more exposure.
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Future of the Pigskin Showdown
This is just the beginning of the road for Williams, Grove, and the rest of their team. They have no plans of stopping anytime soon. “I can definitely see this program expanding,” Williams said. “Within the next five years I can see the Pigskin Showdown becoming a mini convention where administration and coaches from all HBCUs will be willing to participate.” Cooperation, he said, will not only increase the success of the Showdown but will also grow the success rate of their student-athletes.
From the marches to the football field. Moving from the struggles of voting towards an opportunity of a lifetime. HBCUs are one of the primary links that bind communities all over the nation. They have remained a consistent pillar of prosperity throughout the United States. Through the years the African American community has always found ways to unite and accomplish common goals. The Pigskin Showdown is just another great example of how the community has gotten together to allow our youth to showcase their talents and possibly move up to the next level.
How to watch the 2022 HBCU Pigskin Showdown:
- Where: Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama
- When: Saturday, December 17
- Start Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
- Stream live: Watch on CNBC and Peacock
Author’s Note: Kynnedi Jackson is a junior, aspiring sportswriter and broadcaster currently studying Mass Communication with a focus in Public Relations at Southern University. She began her journey with sports media back in ninth grade within her school’s media department. She now works as an editor and journalist for the school newspaper, Southern Digest. You can follow her on Instagram @kynnedisharee or read her articles on southerndigest.com