WASHINGTON D.C. – Chicago Bears running back/kick returner Tarik Cohen and Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard have been selected as the 2019 Black College Football Pro Player of the Year recipients. Presented by the NFL Players Association, the award is given annually to the top professional football player who attended an Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
The electrifying Cohen won the award following his second NFL season, during which he totaled 1,580 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns as a rusher, receiver and kick returner for the Bears. As a result, the 2017 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl participant and North Carolina A&T alum earned first-team All-Pro honors as a return specialist and a spot in the Pro Bowl.
Leonard made an immediate impact as a rookie. The former South Carolina State standout registered 163 combined tackles (111 solo), eight pass deflections, seven sacks and one interception. His tackle count led the NFL and broke the Colts’ franchise record, earning him NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors along with spots on the first-team All-Pro and in the Pro Bowl.
Cohen and Leonard will be recognized as this year’s recipient at the Black College Football Hall of Fame (BCFHOF) Induction Ceremony on Saturday, February 16 in Atlanta. The 2019 BCFHOF class features Emerson Boozer, Hugh Douglas, Rich “Tombstone” Jackson, Frank Lewis, Timmy Newsome, John Taylor and Coach Arnett “Ace” Mumford.
“We are extremely proud to have Tarik Cohen and Darius Leonard as this year’s recipients of this prestigious honor,” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said. “Their journey to this point and continued work on and off the field are a testament to the legacy and example set by the many great NFL players who came from HBCUs.”
In recognition of February’s Black History Month, the NFL Players Association partnered with the Black College Football Hall of Fame to create this annual award. Each honoree is selected by a six-member committee comprised of Charles Bailey (former NFL scout), D. Orlando Ledbetter (Atlanta Journal-Constitution), Jay Walker (ESPN), Doug Williams (Washington Redskins Senior Vice President of Player Personnel), John X. Miller (The Undefeated) and Steve Wyche (NFL Network).
The winner should serve as a positive influence in his community, have ties to his alma mater, exhibit good character throughout his career and perform at a high level during the current NFL season. Last year’s inaugural winner was current Arizona Cardinal and former Howard University player Antoine Bethea.