A popular series from last draft cycle is returning yet again at Stampede Blue. Last off-season, I interviewed over 40 prospects that could eventually be fits for the Indianapolis Colts in the 2019 NFL Draft. As a result, we were able to find out a lot about two Colts who went on to eventually be drafted by the team in Marvell Tell II and Khari Willis. This year I hope to interview even more prospects so you all can get an inside look at these player’s accomplishments and mindsets going into this next draft.
Our next prospect is wide receiver Christian Rowland from Tennesse State University. One of the most productive receivers in FCS history, Rowland was setting records as a Senior at Tennessee State. He is a playmaker who excelled in college at both returner and wide receiver. We had an excellent talk below about his growth throughout college as a football player, his impact on special teams, and his place in FCS history.
5’8” 180 pounds
104 catches (HBCU record) for 1,437 yards and 8 touchdowns. 14 punt returns for 166 yards. 15 kick returns for 375 yards and a touchdown. 19 rushes for 132 yards and one touchdown.
Led Nation in Receiving yards and Receiving yards per game (2019)
Walter Camp FCS All-America Team (2019)
All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team - Wide Receiver (2019)
All-Ohio Valley Conference First Team - Return Specialist (2019)
Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year (2019)
HERO Sports FCS First Team All Purpose Player (2019)
All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team - Wide Receiver (2018)
All-Ohio Valley Conference Second Team - Return Specialist (2018)
Fit with the Colts:
Due to his smaller size, it is going to be a tough road to the NFL for Rowland. Luckily he is very similar in size and build to Jakeem Grant, a former sixth rounder from the Dolphins. Like Grant, Rowland has outstanding speed and quickness to make up for his smaller frame. He could easily make his way onto a roster early in his career as a return specialist and then work his way up a receiver lineup due to his speed and quickness. He may not be an obvious fit with the Colts due to the play of Nyheim Hines at returner but he should be able to find a spot in the league despite his smaller size.
Current Draft Projection: Day 3 Grade
ZH: How did you end up at Tennessee State University?
CR: I have a rich family history at Tennessee State. My Grandparents and my mom went to Tennessee State also so... my grandmother was in the band, my grandfather was a Biology Professor, and my other Grandfather was also in the band too so going to Tennessee State wasn’t really a hard decision when they originally offered to me. My parents did tell me that wherever I want to go, I can but I decided on Tennessee State and I haven’t looked back.
ZH: You were super productive early on at TSU, making All Ohio Valley Conference First Team as a Freshman. Why do you think you were able to transition from the high school game to college game so easily?
CR: I honestly consider myself a product of hard work. When I first got to Tennessee State, the speed factor was the biggest change from high school to college. I knew though that once I got a real good understanding of the game by bringing it in practice each day that I would be effective. So I just showed up to practice and worked hard and continued to work and once I got down the practice habits you know I was much faster than everybody else and I felt like I was able to overcome that initial change.
ZH: What area do you think you’ve grown the most in over your four years of college?
CR: My patience. I wasn’t really the most patient person when it came to playing time and also in understanding how plays develop so that was probably the most important thing I had to understand when plays develop, when coverages develop and not overcommiting early if you know what I’m saying. Getting that feel for it and letting plays develop, that is when I really started to feel like I was ready to make some big plays.
ZH: You were named a Team Captain going into your final season. What did it mean to you to wear that “C” patch on your jersey?
CR: I was honored to be named a Team Captain. I was actually named a Team Captain the last couple games of my Junior year but you know being a Team Captain means you got to lead not just on the field but off it. You have to lead by example and you can’t do other stuff, even some things that you want to, because you have to be that role model. I just felt honored and I just tried to lead as much by example as I could.
ZH: You broke the record for most catches in a season by a player from a HBCU, a record that was formally held by Jerry Rice. What does it mean to you to have that, and many other, records in your time at TSU?
CR: I’m just honored. Anytime you are in the same conversation as Jerry Rice, you aren’t in bad company. It wasn’t actually my intention at all to break the record but I did have a goal in mind to catch 100 balls. So I would go out before practice everyday and catch 100 passes before every practice. That hard work really paid off and it is nice to have all those accomplishments and I just have to thank God that all this stuff happened because you know I was just trying to win games, not break records but you know it comes with hard work and then it all plays out.
ZH: Looking at your film, it is hard to overlook your size on the field. That being said, you were still one of the most productive receiver in FCS history. What areas of your game have you had to perfect in order to overcome your smaller size?
CR: Definitely film study. That is one thing that I had to really work on. Being a smaller guy, I have to win a certain way to get more open so I would watch the way defenders play you know like whatever defense they are in or stuff like that. I felt like that was really my business because I was spending 15-20 hours a week on film study just going into each game and it really helped me take over in games because I knew what was coming and where to be in certain spots.
ZH: What is the most important trait for a receiver to possess?
CR: The mental game. As a receiver, you are running all game and you can get tired and worn down out there. You gotta be able to have your technique take over in games as you can’t go out there and wing routes and stuff like that. I feel like that mental factor for a receiver is the most important part of the game because you really gotta be a dog out there.
ZH: Who was the toughest defensive back or overall defender you faced in college?
CR: I would have to say a former teammate of mine in Terrel Bonds. He graduated in 2017 and actually plays for the Ravens right now. Probably one of the smartest defensive backs I’ve faced. He was one of those slot guys too so he’s really paying attention to hips and all that too so it was good to have to work to get open against him in practice and it made me better.
ZH: Which NFL player do you model your game after or compare yourself to?
CR: I don’t really look too much into that, maybe a guy like Deonte Harris for the return game. For receivers though I really like Jarvis Landry. My favorite guy to watch. He wasn’t really one of the more talented guys coming out but he has got to where he is now with all the work that he does on and off the field. It is a testament to how hard he works off the field that he is able to make the plays he makes and that is just something that I admire.
ZH: What is my NFL team getting if they draft Chris Rowland?
CR: Not only are they getting an explosive player but they’ll be getting a smart player who preaches “Do your job.” Wherever coaches need me whether it be special teams or offense, I want to be a guy they can plug in and rely on. When you draft Chris Rowland, you know you are getting somebody that is just an all around team player and somebody who is going to give your team the best chance to win.