NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Hundreds of NFL prospects are anxiously awaiting to find out where their football journey will take them next.

Chris Rowland is one of those guys, but a little different.

Thursday is the first round of the NFL Draft and 32 players will be on display that night. Although Rowland likely won’t be in the spotlight Thursday night, he’s been there before. At Ravenwood high school and Tennessee State, the wide receiver shined brightly.

His award list is lengthy but is highlighted by FCS All-American, HBCU All-American, Black College Football Player of the Year (Deacon Jones Trophy) and OVC offensive player of the year.

“The Deacon Jones Trophy award was a huge honor,” said Rowland. “Especially to be the first player from Tennessee State to win and just being surrounded by a lot of Hall of Famers that came from HBCUs. I was talking to a couple of those guys and they were just telling me, ‘we’re passing the torch on to you to be the next generation of player to open the gateway for HBCU players,’ and so I just really felt that one. That was the one I was most proud of just because of where I come from. And, just because there are a lot of hurdles I’ve had to overcome, it’s done nothing but get me ready and I couldn’t be more proud of where I’ve come from.”

He also lead the nation in receiving yards (1,437) and receiving yards per game (119.8).

Although he was unable to showcase his ability at TSU’s Pro Day, he clearly put plenty on tape. Without that final shot to make a big impression, it requires a lot of trust in teams to do their homework.

“I go to a smaller school, so I’m not seen a whole lot by teams,” he said. “It was an unfortunate thing that happened to us, and all I can really do is just continue to work and work hard and hopefully let my tape doing the talking for me.”

Not that he needed any more, but the unfortunate opportunity provided extra motivation.

“I got to work twice as hard to get half as much as someone that goes to like an Alabama or a bigger school like that gets, so getting chips is nothing new, just adding more fuel to the fire.”

The extra effort will pay dividends well after the draft process is over.

“I have a feeling with this whole pandemic going on, we’re going to to go straight into fall camp. I don’t think there will be a rookie mini camp. So when the time comes, you’re going to end up hitting the ground running, so you got to really prepare yourself. I feel like that extra chip is going to be the one to get me ready.”