College Football: Hargrave preparing for all-star game, draft

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The NFL draft math is daunting.
Seven rounds. Thirty-two teams. That’s 256 draft slots.
Then there are some even more daunting numbers. In the 2015 draft, only 19 players were picked who didn’t compete for one of the Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
North Rowan graduate Javon Hargrave, who recently finished an award-filled career at Football Championship Subdivision school South Carolina State, hopes to be one of the “small school” guys who gets selected this year. His chances are good.
The defensive tackle is on just about everyone’s list of the top 200 prospects and is projected by the most optimistic analysts to be worthy of a third-round pick.
CBS Sports ranks him 19th among the defensive tackles available in the draft and projects him as a sixth-round pick.
Bleacher Report ranks him No. 3 on its list of small-school sleepers.
Scouts like how Hargrave stays low. They like his strength. They like his rip, swim and sidestep pass-rushing moves. They’re not sold on his run-stopping ability, but they’re fascinated by his quickness and his knack for pressuring quarterbacks.
Hargrave is 6-foot-2, 310 pounds. He is incredibly explosive for a 310-pounder. That’s why he has a chance to play in a league with the best in the world.
“Three years ago, I was just kind of hoping that something might happen,” Hargrave said in a phone interview. “I thought about it and I wished for it more times than I can count, but it’s a different feeling now that it’s actually here. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and say to myself, ‘Dang, I’ve got a chance. I’ve really got a chance.'”
Hargrave, who turns 23 next month, accomplished impressive things at North Rowan, including setting county records for fumble recoveries in a season (8) and a career (18). He capped his prep career with three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery to earn defensive MVP honors in the East-West All-Star Game in the summer of 2011.
Hargrave wasn’t eligible to play at South Carolina State in the fall of 2011, but the communications major progressed steadily in the classroom and started making the Dean’s List.
He was on the FCS All-Freshman team in 2012, but injuries nagged him in 2013.
Then he had a life-changing outing as a junior on Oct. 25, 2014, when he destroyed rival Bethune-Cookman almost single-handedly. He made 11 tackles that day. Six of those tackles were sacks. It was a record-breaking performance that got him noticed. He was national player of the week and suddenly was on the radar for a lot of people.
Hargrave has never looked back. He was the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year for the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the 2014 BOXTOROW Defensive Player of the Year, an award that includes all the historically black colleges and universities.
Hargrave had to deal with rumors last summer that South Carolina State would be shutting down due to financial woes, but he stayed the course in Orangeburg, S.C. He showed senior leadership. He helped organize volunteer workouts by the players.
With every opponent game-planning to account for Hargrave and with everyone double-teaming him, he was the repeat winner of both prestigious player of the year awards as a senior. He had 13.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hurries. He was named to all the FCS All-America teams.
“I guess I’ve stacked up a few awards, but it was a whole lot harder as a senior, especially early in the year when it seemed like I was having to take on everybody,” Hargrave said. “But my teammates started making more plays. That freed me up.”
Hargrave isn’t just sitting around hoping to hear his name called when the draft takes place on April 28-30.
He’s training now in Pensacola, Fla.
He rises daily at 7 a.m., and works to increase his already impressive speed. There’s also weightlifting, technique work, film study and position drills. His rewards are time in a cold tub and massages. His day is done by 5 p.m. He watches a movie or TV, chills out with friends and is in bed by 10 p.m.
Then his routine rewinds for another day.
“It doesn’t feel like 7 a.m. is early because I was getting up at 5 at South Carolina State,” Hargrave said. “Football has made me a morning person.”
His basketball efforts now usually are limited to video games, but there was a time when he was a large factor on the court for North Rowan. He scored 903 points for the Cavaliers. He averaged 10.5 points as a senior — second on the team — when North won the 2011 1A state championship.
“Basketball — that’s where my quickness comes from,” Hargrave said cheerfully.
Coming from a high school that had been playing a 1A schedule, Hargrave had to prove himself at South Carolina State.
He’ll face a similar challenge on Jan. 23 when he suits up for the East squad in the East-West Shrine Game. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. EST at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. The all-star game will be televised by the NFL Network.
The West team’s offensive linemen come from high-profile schools such as Ohio State, Illinois, UCLA, Oregon, Nebraska and Colorado. Hargrave thoroughly dominated FCS offensive lineman, but scouts will be watching closely to see if he can fight off blocks and make plays against the big boys.
“There always are going to be doubters,” Hargrave said. “I know it’s an important game for me. I’m taking it very seriously.”
Hargrave already has been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine that will take place from Feb. 23-29 in Indianapolis. That’s a huge plus for his draft chances. Usually, 300 or so elite players are invited to Indianapolis for official timing and testing.
“I got the invitation by email and actually didn’t see it for a couple of days,” Hargrave said. “I’m excited about it. That will be an important week for me.”
Hargrave also will participate in South Carolina State’s Pro Day, and a number of NFL scouts are expected to attend. That will take place in late March or early April.
“It’s kind of a crazy time, but I’m enjoying it and trying to appreciate it,” Hargrave said. “You dream your whole life that you’ll get a chance. I feel blessed to be getting that chance.”