Strengthening HBCUs

The NFL is committed to increasing opportunities for students and administrators from HBCUs.

The NFL is proud of its long history with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and is committed to strengthening the ongoing partnership.

Since the NFL began its partnership with HBCUs in 2016 with the Strength of HBCUs initiative, more than 3,000 HBCU students have participated in Football Operations’ various HBCU programming focused on student and administrator development, career exposure, and networking.

These initiatives honor the rich history of HBCUs and the NFL while looking towards the future.

Panel discussion at the NFL Careers in Football Forum.

Panel discussion at the NFL Careers in Football Forum.

Careers in Football Forum 

The HBCU Careers in Football Forum was designed to inspire, develop and connect undergraduate and graduate students with industry professionals and league partners. 

Participants are selected through an application-based process and can: 

  • Attend lectures and panel discussions with NFL leadership and club executives
  • Take part in resume and skill-building workshops
  • Participate in networking sessions

“Having the opportunity to network and dialogue with NFL front office, human resources and team personnel in an intimate setting is an invaluable experience which should benefit our students in their future employment opportunities,” said Dr. Dennis Thomas, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Commissioner.

The program will bring students together from HBCUs to inspire, develop, and connect them with NFL league and club representatives along with other sports industry professionals and organizations.

Campus Connection Program

The NFL and Howard University partnered to launch the Campus Connection program.

The NFL and Howard University partnered to launch the Campus Connection program.

The NFL and Howard University launched the Campus Connection program in 2018 to introduce and prepare students for potential careers in professional football administration. The inaugural event introduced more than 300 young professionals to opportunities in sports and entertainment. Industry leaders from the NBA, MLB and other organizations participated in panel discussions, workshops and networking events. 

Campus Connection is part of the NFL’s ongoing commitment to celebrating the impact HBCUs have had on the game of professional football, driving awareness around career opportunities and providing access to the business of sport.

Participating Schools

Participating Schools


This annual event, hosted by the NFL Football Operations department, brings together stakeholders across HBCUs and football to discuss NFL initiatives, areas of opportunities and further strengthen relationships.

Participants hear from speakers from NFL leadership and personnel from football strategy, development, data and analytics, talent acquisition, experienceship programs and more.

HBCU Battle of the Brains Competition

HBCU Battle of the Brains addresses inequities in industries in which diversity is lacking. The competition brings top students and industry leaders together to showcase students’ skills through skills challenges, mentoring and professional development. In addition to competing for prizes, students participate in company tours, workshops and panel discussions to grow their skills and learn from professionals.

Students compete for more than $50,000 in college scholarships and bragging rights in the hackathon-style event. The HBCU Battle of the Brains has featured participation with more than 60 HBCUs.

The NFL has served as the title sponsor for three consecutive years and has provided additional opportunities for finalists, including participating in an extended case study and connecting with industry experts, and culminating with in-person presentations and roundtables at the NFL league offices in New York.

The NFL is committed to continuing this historic partnership and celebration of HBCUs and their players.

NFL experienceships

HBCU Experienceship participants (L-R) Tucker Toole, Shala Murray, Janae Adams and Bundrea Conway.

HBCU Experienceship participants (L-R) Tucker Toole, Shala Murray, Janae Adams and Bundrea Conway.

NFL Football Operations launched the experienceship program to connect collegiate candidates interested in a career in sports and entertainment with opportunities to develop and to learn about the business through practical learning and shadowing experiences. The initiative has since expanded and now includes the opportunity to gain experience on other NFL departments.

Experienceships increase diversity by providing students at HBCUs opportunities to engage with NFL leadership and staff in departments across the league. They receive opportunities to learn and gain experience, mentorship, experience, and access throughout the year with NFL business units, clubs and partners. They are able to expand their skill sets while networking.

The NFL hosted two Rhoden Fellows, Tucker Toole (Morehouse College) and Janae Adams (Clark Atlanta University), and two students, Shala Murray (Spelman College) and Bundrea Conway (Morehouse College), at Super Bowl LIII for their HBCU Experienceship. The shadowing program gave the students a behind-the-scenes look at Super Bowl week operations throughout Atlanta, including visits to the NFL Legends Lounge, Broadcast Bowl and Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Students who have not participated in NFL sponsored events before are eligible to apply for the HBCU Experienceship. The program provides participants with opportunities to earn hands-on experience at all-star games such as the East-West Shrine Bowl and Senior Bowl. Candidates can apply for an Experienceships with the athletic training, equipment management or video teams. 

Social Impact Workshop 

The Social Impact Workshop hosted by the NFL, Morehouse College, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equity and the Players Coalition is open to all professional athletes seeking to amplify their voice. Athletes are provided with resources and training to support their activism, and to ultimately have a greater impact on social causes.

Participants learn about previous social justice movements, acquire tools and resources, and hear from athlete and social activists, academicians and politicians to become a more effective advocate.

“Athletes have a unique ability to bring people together for solution-driven conversations that can bring about real change.”


“Sport has been an international venue for social change since before Jesse Owens swept the 1936 Olympics and opened the world’s eyes to the image of justice and equality,” said Vincent. “This historic workshop is aimed at training the next generation of athletes who wish to use sport as a powerful platform for advocacy.”

NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative

The NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative provides medical students at the four HBCU medical schools with the opportunity to complete a clinical rotation with NFL club medical staff. This initiative aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine to help make a positive impact in the field and ultimately help to diversify NFL club medical staff.

Medical students interested in primary care sports medicine or orthopedic surgery will be selected by their respective schools to complete one-month clinical rotations with NFL clubs during the NFL season. Sixteen students will participate in this inaugural season, two students each at eight participating NFL clubs: Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders.

"Increasing diversity across every role in our league and at our clubs is essential. Diversity makes us stronger," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "We have an opportunity to help increase the pipeline of diverse sports medicine professionals, which is imperative for us as a league. This initiative is an example of how we can lend our platform for a societal benefit. I'm proud that our league can help inspire the next generation of sports medicine professionals."

HBCU Week x NFL Scholarship 

The NFL and the HBCU Week Foundation are teaming up to create scholarships for high school graduates with financial needs who will be attending an HBCU.

Read Troy Vincent, Sr.'s Reflections on Black excellence and the NFL's role in driving generational impact.

Learn more about the scholarship and apply:

Madden NFL + HBCU Tournament

The Madden NFL 21 x HBCU Tournament players representing HBCUs from CIAA, MEAC, SIAC and SWAC, participated in the single elimination qualifiers in November 2020. The top four gamers from each HBCU conference – a total of 16 players – advanced to the Madden NFL 21 x HBCU Tournament ahead of Super Bowl LV in February 2021.

The final two rounds were broadcast live on EA Madden NFL Twitch channel.  

The tournament is designed to connect HBCU communities and encourage competition among the most talented EA SPORTS Madden NFL players.