College stars see NFLPA Collegiate Bowl as fastrack to the pros

Arizona State running back Demario Richard (34) rumbles through the American team defense in the National squad's 23-0 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl win on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline

PASADENA, CA-College scouts slept on Howard University  running back Anthony Philyaw four years ago. Coming out of Redondo Union High School in Redondo, California, Philyaw didn’t have a whole lot of people knocking on his door to offer him a scholarship as a senior. Howard was the only school to think of him enough to make that kind of pitch.

“It was the only offer I got coming out of high school,” Philyaw said. “I’m an underdog. I was slept on. So I just keep working, working and working.”

As he concluded his collegiate career Saturday at the Rose Bowl with one last flourish at the 2018 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game in which he caught a couple of passes and scored on a 12-yard rushing touchdown in the National team’s 23-0 win against the American squad, Philyaw is hoping pro scouts won’t sleep on him now.

“God willing, I’ll just keep playing and show everybody what I’ve got,” Philyaw said.

Howard University running back Anthony Philyaw scores ona 12-yard touchdown run for the National team in the 2018 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game played at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline

Philyaw carries a 205-pound chip on his shoulder. It’s a good chip, one that makes him determined to reach his goal of someday of playing football in the National Football League  (NFL). The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game, played annually, is a great way for Philyaw and other seniors like him to get noticed by NFL scouts.

“I’m actually excited about the (NFL) draft,” Philyaw said. “It’s unknown territory for me, so I’m just excited to get this journey started and see what I can do.”

Philyaw’s pathway to land high on the radar screen of pro scouts was somewhat altered during his last season playing for Howard. Philyaw rushed for 1,230 yards in his junior campaign. The 2017 college football season was supposed to be a coming out party for Philyaw. It didn’t happen that way.

Howard University running back Anthony Philyaw (27) looks for room to run in the 2018 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl game on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline

With Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s younger brother, Caylin Newton, taking over the reins as Howard’s dual-threat signal-caller, Philyaw’s production dropped significantly his senior season. Philyaw rushed for only 769 yards, but still managed to pick up 5.7 yards per carry on the ground. The year didn’t turn out to be as fruitful statistically for the Southern California senior, but it was still a productive season for Philyaw and his teammates.

“I think I did okay. I could have done better,” said Philyaw.

Howard’s season started with a bang in what many  consider to be probably the biggest upset in college football history. Philyaw and his Howard teammates were posted as 45-point underdogs on the road against the UNLV Rebels. In other words, this was supposed to be a throwaway game for the Rebels and a money-making opportunity for the Bison. By the end of the game, Howard was the declared the winner in both columns.

Philyaw and Newton led an unexpected offensive surge to lead Howard to a 43-40 upset of the Rebels. Philyaw rushed for 71 yards and two touchdowns in Howard’s upset. Even though Howard would lose its next contest to Kent State, the Bison finished with a 7-4 record and in third-place (6-2) in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). Philyaw said Howard’s big win against UNLV set the tone for how the team would play the rest of the season.

Running backs from the National team that participated in the 2018 NFLPA Game at the Rose Bowl, have some fun after they beat the American squad, 23-0. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline

“It was a great job for us for the rest of the season,” Philyaw said. “Even though we suffered a loss against Kent State, it was still a mind-blowing experience that we all got to experience for the Howard team. It was great, overall.”

Attending a historically black college like Howard University was just as beneficial for him off the field, Philyaw said.

“It was a great experience.” Philyaw said. “If I had the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t regret anything. Bison Pride.”

As far as football goes, at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Philyaw has the right physical tools to attract the attention of pro scouts. His sneaky speed was on display on his touchdown run in which he hit an inside hole, bounced outside and outran several defenders to the endzone. That might get scouts to do a re-take of Philyaw on their draft boards.

“I felt good,” Philyaw said. “I gave the ball to my lineman so that they can celebrate. They did a good job blocking all week, all week long in practice. They just finished off in the game. It was a good job.”

Philyaw added that the competition throughout the week leading up to the game was a great barometer where he could gauge himself against other players from notable college football conferences such as the Pac-12, ACC, SEC and the Big Ten.

“Today, it felt good just to compete throughout the week against teams across the world, from all different leagues [conferences],” Philyaw said. “It was a great opportunity for me to showcase my talents and all-that I can compete with these guys . It was a good experience overall. I’m just blessed and excited.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1176 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.