TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – All eyes were on offensive lineman Calvin Ashley during Florida A&M University’s pro day. Eleven scouts were in attendance to watch the 6-foot-7, 315-pound offensive tackle compete for a chance in the NFL.
Ashley, 23, transferred from Auburn University in 2019 and completed one season with the Rattlers. During the season, Ashley started in seven games and helped the Rattlers complete a stellar record of 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).
After FAMU opted out of the spring 2021 season and the MEAC canceled its football season, Ashley declared for the NFL draft. He said it was a tough but necessary decision. He did not attend the combine in Birmingham, Alabama, for players from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) two weeks ago, but he has been training consistently since he decided to enter the draft.
“I did one season at FAMU. I was training and going hard at it and COVID hit. I have a family and you have to make hard decisions at times, but it was for them and I wanted to start planning my career,” Ashley said.
Ashley was a five-star recruit out of St. John’s College High School in Washington. He redshirted as a freshman at Auburn. The next season after starting only two games, he left Auburn and enrolled at Florida Atlantic, but didn’t play there.
So he moved back to Florida to be closer to his family in 2019. His wife, Zaria, was pregnant with their son, Calvin Jr., during that time and she was attending Florida State.
Leading up to pro day, Ashley improved his overall focus. Since returning to his hometown in Orlando, Florida, Ashley lost 38 pounds and became stronger and quicker.
During pro day, Ashley had a 5.49-second time in the 40-yard dash and a 5.10-second time in the short shuttle. Ashley says he was excited to showcase his athleticism to NFL scouts and he is ready for the next step. Projections have Ashley as a potential late-round draft pick.
Ashley has been training at DME Sports Performance by Tom Shaw in Daytona Beach. Shaw has 14 years of NFL coaching experience and has worked with more than 140-plus first-round NFL picks.
Ashley has been working out with former NFL players D.J. Williams, a linebacker who played 11 seasons in the league, and Javien Elliott, a free-agent cornerback who last played with the Carolina Panthers in 2019.
FAMU head coach Willie Simmons has been impressed watching Ashley’s growth over the last year.
“I think he has done a phenomenal job at working hard to develop his body,” Simmons said. “After being out of football for a year and taking this time to train, I was impressed with how he came back looking physically. I thought he did a really good job during the private workouts.”
Simmons said coaching Ashley during the 2019 season was gratifying, and former co-coordinator and offensive line coach Alex Jackson says he was impressed by his focus and preparation.
“He was there to show our guys and model how to go about the business every day,” said Jackson, now an offensive analyst at the University of Tennessee. “He’s a tremendous athlete, and he’s a quicker learner. I’ve been keeping up with him and he’s in a good mental state and just enjoying the process right now.”
This year’s draft has a strong group of offensive tackles and interior linemen, led by tackle Penei Sewell of Oregon and Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC.
According to Sports Mockery, the Chicago Bears have shown interest in Ashley because of his size and athleticism. The Bears have five picks between the fifth and seventh rounds, where Ashley could be selected, in the April 29-May 1 draft.
Chicago has had good fortune with athletes from HBCUs, including Tarik Cohen, the former North Carolina A&T running back the team drafted in 2016. Among the most prominent HBCU players to play for the Bears are Pro Football Hall of Famers Walter Payton, Richard Dent and Leslie Frazier.