Bowie State football player hoping to do what no Bulldog has done before — get drafted

Bowie State University defensive lineman Joshua Pryor is hoping to make the jump to the next level and get drafted to the NFL. (Courtesy Bowie State University)
Josh Pryor finished with 32 career sacks while moving between defensive tackle and defensive end during his time in college. (Courtesy Bowie State University)
Should Josh Pryor get drafted to the NFL, it would be a boon to smaller schools, especially HBCUs. (Courtesy Bowie State University)

The NFL draft begins Thursday night, and by the time it ends on Saturday, more than 200 college football players from around the country will have been chosen by the league’s 32 teams.

Some are stars who most college football fans are familiar with and figure to be fixtures in the league for years to come. Others are hoping for that chance at stardom they never got in college.

A player from Bowie State University in Maryland has never been drafted. Playing at the NCAA Division 2 level, the Bulldogs are two levels below teams typically shown on TV on Saturdays in the fall. But by the time the draft ends, defensive lineman Joshua Pryor is hoping to make the jump to the next level.

“It’s always been my goal, and I’ve always had people saying this is a possibility,” Pryor said. A graduate of Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Pryor said he was never worried about getting overlooked by NFL scouts, although he went to a small school.

“That was a big thing for me coming out of high school, trying to figure out which college was the best for me,” Pryor said. “One of the things I kept hearing no matter who I was talking to was, ‘It doesn’t matter where you go, if you have the talent they’re going to find you.’ That’s just something that kind of stuck into the back of my head.”

“If I felt like I wouldn’t have been able to do that from Bowie State, I wouldn’t have come,” he said.

Pryor wrapped up a standout career at Bowie State last fall, getting named conference player of the year.

He finished with 32 career sacks while moving between defensive tackle and defensive end during his time in college. That didn’t get him an invite to the NFL Combine, but he did participate in this year’s Legacy Bowl, an all-star game for players from historically Black colleges and universities, where he again put on a show, totaling seven tackles (three for a loss) and two sacks.

He turned lots of heads there.

“Had a really, really dominant week in practices, nobody could block him,” said the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche, who covered the Legacy Bowl. “For a guy who was coming in there as one of the players you needed to pay attention to, he did not disappoint.”

But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee all that much. Last year, nobody who played in the Legacy Bowl was drafted, but Wyche said more than 30 players who participated were later signed and invited to an NFL training camp, with some of them making either active rosters or practice squads.

This year, Pryor has a chance of being taken late in the day on Saturday, maybe in the sixth or seventh round. He said that he will be watching the draft on Saturday, hoping for the call that makes him the first Bulldog ever taken in the draft.

If he’s not, and he’s aware it might not happen, he’s still likely to get offered a contract by a team and invited to their training camp.

“That’s really a blessing just to be in this position to represent my school and my family,” Pryor said. “Just going here, I’ve really come to love the history of this school and everything that gets put into it. So I want to get into that position to give back and continue to see how far Bowie State can grow.”

Wyche said if Pryor does get drafted it would “mean everything” not just to Pryor, who would become almost an ambassador for Bowie State, but to the school itself too, since coaches could show other recruits that the NFL is a possibility.

“It is everything,” said Wyche, who himself graduated from Howard University. “If Josh Pryor can go ahead and get an opportunity and stick for a while, it’s everything for smaller schools, especially HBCUs, which are typically not known for their athletic programs.”

Noting that Pryor wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, and had to go to the Commanders for a pre-draft workout, Wyche said this has the potential of being a great story.

And while the list isn’t long, there are some illustrious names who played college ball for HBCUs and went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Wyche said Pryor shared similar stories and experiences with almost all of those players.

“Pro Football Hall of Fame, it’s just littered with stories like this, so it’d be great to see Josh Pryor be the next one in that chapter,” Wyche said.

But before that happens, Pryor needs to get his chance. Every year, video always circulates showing players answering the phone from an NFL team about to call their name. Some of them can be pretty touching and emotional. Pryor has tried to imagine that moment for himself too.

“It’s kind of hard to picture it, though,” Pryor said. “I know it’s going to be a feeling I’ve never experienced before, so I’m just ready for that moment, hoping I definitely get my number called.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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