Hampton University's Byron Perkins protests the pass interference call against him in the first quarter at Armstrong Stadium in Hampton, Va., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2023. | William Bretzger-Delaware News Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL Draft represents so much hope for so many young men in their football journey. One of them is Byron Perkins.

This weekend about 250 players out of college football will be selected to join the NFL ranks, as potential players at every position from quarterback to cornerback.

After the Draft, there will be a furious signing of hundreds of undrafted rookies as well.

Over the long course of NFL Draft history, only three gay men have been publicly out ahead of the Draft. Michael Sam out of Missouri famously came out ahead of the 2014 NFL Draft. He was selected in the seventh round by the Rams.

Scott Frantz had a great shot at a selection in 2020. When the year got turned upside down, some forces worked against him. Scott Frantz never played in the NFL.

Now, a decade after Sam, Byron Perkins has declared for the NFL Draft.

“I just want a fair shot,” Perkins told Outsports.

Who is Byron Perkins?

Perkins is a defensive back out of Hampton University in Virginia. He is one of the few HBCU players to be in the NFL Draft. Historically, anywhere from zero to a small handful of HBCU players are selected in the NFL Draft. In the last four drafts, a total of six HBCU players have been selected.

A transfer from Purdue, Perkins logged two interceptions over the last two seasons.

While that number may not be earth-shattering, there are so many intangibles to the numbers of a DB. Over the last two seasons, he also recorded 23 tackles.

Off the field, Perkins is a stellar human being. He’s easy to talk to, has respectful perspectives about a wide range of topics, and is a joy to be around.

Byron Perkins’ NFL Draft chances

So will Byron Perkins be drafted in the 2024 NFL Draft?

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely. He deserves it given his talent and personality. If NFL teams got to know him, they’d fall in love. Still, it’s unlikely.

Every year, HBCU players struggle to be recognized for their talent. While the NFL has made efforts to change that, the issue persists.

Favoritism is given to USC, LSU, Ohio State and other “Power Conference” teams across the country. No doubt, USC would beat Hampton in a football game 99 out of 100 times.

Still, athletes like Perkins and other HBCU players can and do contribute.

For the most part, they are relegated to their agents’ ability to get them signed after the NFL Draft. Hundreds of potential rookies will be signed by NFL teams after “Mr. Irrelevant” — the last pick in the draft — is named in a few days.

That’s where Perkins is likely to end up, looking for an OTA (Organized Team Activity) invitation for June from somebody who sees the hard work and talent of this young man.

“I can only hope to have a sliver of an opportunity,” Perkins said. “If I go to a free agency situation, even uttering ‘National Football League,’ that’s a privilege. These guys dedicate their lives to being excellent every day. I’ll let the cards fall how they fall and let God lead me in the direction I need to go to be successful.”

We are extremely hopeful that he gets a call to join a team for OTAs, and even Training Camp.

If not? There are many other pro-football opportunities today, including the Canadian Football League, the European League of Football, and then in 2025, the United Football League.

Somebody wants to sign Perkins. The challenge Perkins faces is to stick to the grind and his dream of playing professional football.

And if it doesn’t work out? We hope it’s because he chose a different path for his professional career.

Still, talking with Perkins, it’s clear he wants in.

Only two gay men have played a regular-season game in professional football after coming out: Michael Sam in the CFL and Carl Nassib in the NFL.

If he chooses, Perkins could be the third.

We’re here to support his deserved chance in the NFL however we can.