Atlanta, GA (February 13, 2019) – The Black College Football Hall of Fame announced today that Chicago Bears running back and return specialist Tarik Cohen and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard have been named recipients of the Black College Football Pro Player of the Year Award, 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 State University, 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.
The 6-foot-2, 234-pound Leonard played for Coach Buddy Pough at South Carolina State University, and was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He 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 Black College Football Pro Player of the Year Award will be made at the Black College Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on February 16, 2019.
“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.
The Black College Football Pro Player of the Year Award was voted on by a Selection Committee, composed of media members D. Orlando Ledbetter (Atlanta Journal Constitution), Jay Walker (ESPN), John Williams (The Undefeated) and Steve Wyche (NFL Network); NFL front office members Doug Williams (Washington Redskins Senior Vice President of Player Personnel) and former NFL scout Charles Bailey.
“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 on February 16. The 2018 Black College Football Player of the Year will also be announced during the Ceremony. Tickets and sponsorships are still available at www.BlackCollegeFootballHOF.org.
“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.”
About the NFLPA
“We, The National Football League Players Association … Pay homage to our predecessors for their courage, sacrifice, and vision; … Pledge to preserve and enhance the democratic involvement of our members; … Confirm our willingness to do whatever is necessary for the betterment of our membership — To preserve our gains and achieve those goals not yet attained.”
About Black College Football Hall of Fame
The Black College Football Hall of Fame was established in October of 2009 by African-American pioneers and quarterbacks, Pro Bowl MVP James “Shack” Harris and Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, to preserve the history and honor the greatest football players, coaches and contributors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). There have been 70 Inductees since inception, including Mel Blount, James Harris, Willie Lanier, Art Shell and Doug Williams, who serve as Trustees.