NFL draft 2022 – Aqeel Glas’ rise from HBCU Player-of-the-Year to possible NFL draft selection

ATLANTA — In his childhood bedroom in St. Louis, which was once painted Florida orange-blue, where the walls were covered with Tim Tebow fatheads and the floors with NFL cards, and the closet with intricate puzzles. Aqeel GlassWould fire up NCAA Football to create a custom team Alabama A&MHis dad's alma maternity — which would go on win the national title for the video game.

His mom, Wendy, a Washington, D.C. native, would play VHS tapes with interviews from the 1987-88 Washington Super Bowl winning team in his living room. Grambling StateDoug Williams, the quarterback — The first Black player to win an NFL Championship.

Glass knew for as long time that he wanted football, and he wanted the position of quarterback. But he was not prepared to find that his father would be his mentor and lead him to an HBCU. Glass thought that he was set for Florida International University by the end of his senior year at Lutheran North High School.

The situation changed quickly. In late September 2016, FIUNearly a month after Ron Turner was fired, Butch Davis was hired. Glass was clear with the new staff when he got in touch.

Glass stated that they told Glass that they were looking for a more dual-threat man. “They didn't want a pocket passer.”

Glass, 23 years old, has been living in Atlanta with other players from historically Black colleges, universities and schools, as well as with Division I schools, for the last few months. Glass, a pocket passer at 6'5″ who is biracial said that he is used to not fitting in the mold. Glass took FIU's fallout with a smile and sought out an opportunity to return to the field as soon possible. In November of that year, he visited Alabama A&M and was offered.

Glass stated that although it wasn't the first choice for him, it would be the best.

Glass isn't atop any rankings, but after two seasons of over 3,500 yards and over 30 touchdowns at A&M, his track record and arm both give him a shot at fulfilling part of his childhood dream — one that could be historic.

Zero HBCU students were selected in the NFL Draft last year. While the league is still grappling with the lack of talent at HBCUs as well the disparity between how often they are being drafted, Glass is doing all he can to become the first HBCU-drafted quarterback since Tarvaris Jack in 2006. He has met with Donovan McNabb for film sessions and formed a close relationship with Williams. Ron Veal, who has also worked with him — has been his mentor. Justin FieldsAnd Trevor LawrenceChip Smith's resume includes work with over 3,500 draft prospects including Colin Kaepernick.

Smith said, “I believe the NFL needs to do better at identifying the talent in those schools.” “Aqeel is a great athlete and can play with anyone. We hope he gets the shot.

NINE-YEAR-OLDGlass was not allowed as a quarterback. The rules of Little League tackle football stipulated that a player must not exceed a certain amount of weight in order to be able to carry, catch, or throw the ball. Demetrius, his father, said that Aqeel was a taller and heavier child because of his build. He was forced to learn how to play linebacker.

Demetrius recalled Aqeel getting into his car one day after practice and telling him that he thought it was better than the kid who was playing quarterback. “What are we going do about it?” Demetrius asked the son. They went to work together.

Glass said, “It was cut season.” “Every night, I put on my sweatsuit and went on the treadmill. Then, I was eating chicken breasts and salad.

Glass' hard work paid off. He switched teams and became the starting quarterback. Demetrius explained that Demetrius led his 10-year-old team all the way to the Little League Super Bowl.

Although Aqeel was not the fastest, Glass saw that his son could throw the football 40 yards at age 10 and with the right training had the potential to become a great quarterback. Demetrius desired Aqeel be trained in a professional-style offense as he grew older. The two would drive to Chicago every summer to continue training. After he graduated high school, he was ready to play Division I baseball.

When FIU fell through, Demetrius and Aqeel took a tour of Alabama A&M and the former got to show the latter where he lived, played and spent four years of his life. Demetrius wanted Glass understand the importance of HBCUs within the Black community and to be able to represent it wherever he went. The history resonated with Glass, and once he met with A&M head coach Connell Maynor, the offense did too.

Maynor stated that they Googled me to find out what type of offense I ran. “No choice, no wishbone. My offense always put up numbers, always had great quarterbacks…it's a system that he wanted to be in.”

Maynor's offense fitted Glass like a glove and he was given the starting job as a freshman. A&M's coaching staff quickly realized Glass had an arm that could leave a receiver's hands stinging, so they focused on improving his timing, technique and movement inside the pocket as well as his leadership skills. Glass was open about his shyness and quiet nature, but it took some time for him to speak up verbally. Maynor said that Glass went from telling coaches his wide receivers were wrong in their first year to actually talking with them.

Glass' quiet demeanor can't hide his competitiveness. He was a linebacker when he was younger which gave him an advantage in analyzing defenses. While watching film, he used to get excited about the weak points he found in defenses. Training here in Atlanta, the only thing that makes him stop throwing the ball is if his receivers are tired.

Glass, who is a civil engineer, stated that he is a perfectionist. “It scratched that itch when I was a quarterback and I had to throw over and over again.

IT'S WARM Late February day in Norcross. Glass' ball is cutting through air and into the arms of receivers at Greater Atlanta Christian High School. Glass' trainers Veal and Ramon Robinson are flanking him on either side. They have both been with Glass since the predraft process.

Robinson said, “You pushed the one, baby. You didn't throw that,” after Robinson had missed a throw.

Glass's mobility and push to the middle of field are two concerns that scouts have.

Veal and Robinson closely analyze Glass's every move, including his hip movements and throws at various arm angles, each time he falls back. If a pass isn’t perfect, they can quickly diagnose the problem. They are also the first to loudly acknowledge when a throw is not perfect.

Robinson says “Whooooo,” while Glass takes a deep approach to the sideline. Veal continues: “Which Scout said he didn’t have the arm strength?”

Glass's desire to excel is evident when he watches him train. He strives for perfection in everything, from his hand placement while practicing the 40-yard run at Chip Smith’s facility, to his mental resilience coaching twice a week, and every move he makes in his pocket while training alongside Veal or Robinson.

“I know that I do what white quarterbacks do well. But that also means [NFL scouts are]Glass stated, citing the fact that Justin Fields (a Black QB) was doubted during last year's draft. “They'll say that you must be more precise, they'll nitpick every detail because I'm not a runner.” “I need to feel a sense urgency to do my best to make it perfect.”

Last month, Ravens quarterback Lamar JacksonLeBron James' HBO program “The Shop” touched upon this sentiment.

Jackson stated that bias towards Black NFL quarterbacks is “dying off”, but that it is still there. It's why I need the championship.

Glass still has a lot of work to do before he can be considered for the NFL. Scouts praise his leadership, as well as his ability to perform in big moments at A&M. While some Scouts noted that his mobility was a concern and that his accuracy and arm strength are still areas he needs to improve, Glass, echoing Jackson, stated that teams are more interested in questions about Black quarterbacks during the pre-draft process.

“Every team I've spoken to has asked how I process information. Glass explained that they've asked her to break down plays. It's never been a problem. I had to compensate for my physical limitations with my mind. If my feet are slow, my mind is faster. “I think teams underestimate my ability to do that.”

Glass is not the type player to be fully in the narrative of being doubted at all turns. But history has shown him that coming from a HBCU does not make him undervalued. The NFL has stated that it is trying to change this. In January, the NFL held its first ever HBCU combine. Glass could not attend the Mobile event because he was invited to the NFLPA Bowl in California at the same time. He believed that the latter would increase his exposure. He was able to finish the game on 9-11 for 147 year and touchdown, feeling that his performance was good enough to receive an invitation to the NFL combine.

Glass was not selected for the 15 invited quarterbacks to Indianapolis in March. Robert Smith, Veal, and Williams, his agent, all thought that the league doesn't yet respect the level competition at HBCUs.

Veal stated that even the most talented Black quarterbacks are subject to ridicule from their peers at one point or another. “I think there's a lot more talent at the level of HBCUs than has been recognized.”

Other players who were at the HBCU combined pointed out that they were only given a very short time between when their season ended and when they were expected for testing. Although their season ended in December, they were required to be at the HBCU combined in January. Comparatively, the main NFL Combine was held on March 1. This happened three months after their FBS season ended.

“The timing was wrong. Smith explained that there were guys who had been out for a month. “That should be addressed. They should do it with the NFL Combine, either three days prior or three days following.”

Some players who were at the HBCU combination were advised by agents and trainers not to run the 40-yard dash. This was in part because it was the number they would be judged on through the rest of their pre-draft process.

Williams' view is different. He said that Williams comes from an HBCU and knows that he won't get the same chance as someone who came from a Power 5 school. “This is the first ever time that HBCUs have had a combine. I'm not an agent. I'm just playing. To me, you have to seize the chance and do your best with it.”

“YOU'RE NOT GONNA GO!”To use a piece or drywall for an overpass row. Glass says concrete and steel are going to be used, as they are more durable. “So, we're going to use concrete and steel because they're stronger,” Glass says.

Glass, who is holding a fishing rod in his left, and his right hand moving as he speaks, compares football to engineering. He's sitting on a dock by a Monroe lake. Glass is naturally resourceful and can put together anything, no matter what it is.

Glass briefly considered transferring when the HBCU season in 2020 was cancelled. Then, in spring 2021, the season was cut in part due to the pandemic. Even though Carl Reed, his high school coach, had put out a call to see if anyone was interested in Glass, they decided that patience and familiarity would prevail. He stayed at A&M.

Glass also felt that it was more important to view his path through an HBCU. Once he got on campus and learned about the history of A&M, how it was founded by a former slave, and what the football program meant to people like the manager that had been there since his dad played, Glass wanted his goals to be realized as an HBCU alumni, not a transfer for a bigger program.

Glass stated, “Being there, it was clear that I was carrying on an legacy that goes deeper than me.” “I felt like my work was getting me buzz and exposure, and I wanted more from the situation in which I was.”

The HBCU community is obsessed with exposure. Williams explained that scouts fear giving HBCU players grades, out of fear they'll make mistakes after not seeing enough. The tide seems to be turning. With Deion Sander turning Jackson StateIt has resulted in a trickle-down effect, which has increased exposure to the SWAC. The program is receiving Division I-type attention and has attracted the top recruits in the country. Glass stated that this was his first time playing in games on ESPN.

Williams, who was awarded three SWAC titles at Grambling State in 2004, is quick to highlight that Sanders is an exceptional phenomenon that must be respected and not duplicated. Although his presence can be helpful, it cannot solve the problem. The HBCU Legacy Bowl was created by the former NFL quarterback to give under-the radar prospects a place where scouts could see them play and practice.

Williams said, “We have always maintained that the scouts wouldn’t go to such schools. They usually grade school, not the player.” “We were not convinced that there weren't HBCU-based players who should have been drafted last season.”

Glass put together a 3,600 yard, 37-touchdown senior season, and was awarded the Deacon Jones Trophy as best HBCU student of the season. This continued the buzz among HBCU groups. Glass was chosen to be the first person invited by James “Shack”, a Grambling alum, and Williams.

“I see a player who deserves to be drafted,” Williams said, citing Glass' résumé. “I think it will take him some while, but he has something few other players have — the ability to throw a ball.

Glass is not expected to be picked at this time. Analysts and scouts worry about Glass' mobility. They also say that he isn't helped by the absence of a track record of success from HBCU quarterbacks. This includes Steve McNair, who spent 13 seasons in the league and was within a yard to leading the Tennessee Titans' victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. They are optimistic that Glass' raw skills will help him make it onto the roster this season.

Glass won't be disappointed if he doesn't see his name among the 259 draft picks. It will not affect the childhood dreams he has lived for the past year. He will have to do more to achieve his goals, no matter where he ends up.

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