Despite Cancellation Of HBCU Combine, Morgan State Stars Still Eyeing NFL Dreams

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has halted all sports activities, Morgan State football players Rico Kennedy and Ian McBorrough say they can’t worry about decisions out of their control.

Kennedy and McBorrough, two linebackers for the Bears, were set to head to Miami for the NFL’s first-ever HBCU scouting combine scheduled for March 27-29. However, because of guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were not able to work out in front of scouts.

Kennedy was upset when he heard the combine was canceled, but says the outbreak is bigger than football.

“I was down at first, but my wife was telling me it’s all part of a bigger plan and whether it happens or not, I should still be proud,” Kennedy said. “I’m still going to have my wife and two daughters, my mom, my dad. It’s bigger than football right now. … It’s not just happening to me; it’s happening to everybody that has been affected by this. I was down for a minute, but life goes on and you got to prepare for whatever that’s going to happen next.”

A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Kennedy was third in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in tackles during the 2019 season with 105 (8.8 tackles per game). Kennedy also led the conference in tackles for loss (16.0). He finished his career at Morgan State with 266 total tackles, 51 tackles for loss and 19 sacks.

Although he was happy to be a part of the combine, Kennedy says he doesn’t play the game for the sake of recognition.

“The work that I put in throughout the years, I was doing something right,” Kennedy said. “I don’t play to get recognized. I play the game because I love it. So, whatever came with me putting in work and playing the game that I love, it’s a blessing and I thank God.”

Along with the HBCU combine, Morgan State’s pro day was set for a day before the two were to travel to South Florida. After training to prepare for two events that could put them on an NFL team’s radar, McBorrough admitted he was disappointed but says he’s been staying in shape.

“I was disappointed at first because I had the combine coming up and pro day and both of those got canceled,” McBorrough said. “But now, you can’t harp on what happened in the past because it already happened. You’ve just got to stay positive and work every day to stay in shape.”

“You can’t just sit down and be sad about the way that things are going,” McBorrough added. “You’ve just got to attack every day and wait for everything to blow over. Just have faith and keep the same work ethic.”

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound McBorrough, an Essex, Md., native and graduate of Eastern Tech, finished the 2019 season with 95 tackles and nine tackles for loss. McBorrough finished his career with 237 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, two interceptions, five fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles.

Since gyms are closed, the two linebackers are staying in shape with workouts at home.

“My trainer sends me workouts I can do because I have the same equipment that I was using during my training process,” McBorrough said. “The biggest difference is when it comes to weights because you can’t get into a gym anymore. … I don’t have a weight room in my basement like some people.”

“I got a weight room set at my neighbor’s house next door. I do pushups, sit-ups, go running and do things to stay in shape,” Kennedy said.

McBorrough, Kennedy and wide receiver Manasseh Bailey, who was also invited to the combine, will be looking to be the next Bears to make their mark in the NFL after Joshua Miles was drafted in 2019 by the Arizona Cardinals.

Kennedy said being drafted would be a blessing, but he will try to find a way to play football regardless of whether he’s drafted or not.

“You dream of that as a kid,” Kennedy said. “As long as I’m given a chance that’ll be a blessing itself, but to be drafted will be a great feeling. Whether I’m drafted or not I still want to pursue the game that I love, and whether it happens or not, I’m still going to enjoy the ride and everything that comes with it.”

McBorrough said if he’s drafted, teams will get a leader on and off the field.

“I love the game of football. I respect the work that it takes to be successful in football,” McBorrough said. “I don’t appreciate shortcuts. The game made me who I am, and I learned everything about being a man from the game of football. They’ll get a good leader on and off the field, a good athlete and linebacker.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Morgan State Athletics