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Omar Khan Shows Kevin Colbert Influence At HBCU Combine

Kevin Colbert just loved football. He was old-school, a nod to the way the NFL used to do things. Early mornings, late nights, red-eye flights. His philosophy was to watch as much football as possible, go to every Pro Day he could, and get eyes on the prospects he’d be considering in that year’s draft.

Omar Khan might be cut from the same cloth.

The NFL held its second annual HBCU Combine Monday in New Orleans. 31 teams attended – we don’t know the squad that didn’t – but only one NFL General Manager attended. Even Saints’ GM Mickey Loomis didn’t bother to attend. The only one who showed up was Pittsburgh’s Omar Khan.

To give a bit of context, New Orleans is home for Khan. It’s where he was born, he attended nearby Tulane, and the Saints were his first NFL job. A chance to scout and a chance to return to your roots for a couple days is a solid double-dip.

Still, he didn’t have to attend the Combine. He could’ve done what the 30 other teams did. Send scouts, get the film sent to them, and not worry about making the travel plans. Most teams are gearing up for next week’s NFL Combine. But Khan took the time to go.

Pittsburgh knows the value of HBCU players. Their history is rich with them. Bill Nunn discovered Donnie Shell from South Carolina State, Mel Blount from Southern, John Stallworth from Alabama A&M, L.C. Greenwood from Arkansas Pine-Bluff (then known as Alabama AM&N), Ernie Holmes from Texas Southern, among others. There are even present-day examples like Javon Hargrave’s South Carolina State, a home run of a pick in the third round of the 2016 draft. HBCU colleges have produced strong talent in recent years. Jackson State’s James Houston broke out in the second half of the season for the Detroit Lions, finishing with eight sacks in seven games. This year has quality prospects in fellow Jackson State LB Aubrey Miller and Florida A&M DE Isaiah Land, two players who showed out at this year’s Senior Bowl.

But it goes deeper than that. Khan wants to be on the scouting trail. He might be viewed as “just the cap guy” who only cares about numbers and spreadsheets. But that wasn’t his original path to football. He got into it as a coach and with a scouting lens before the Rooney’s came calling and wanted him to help run the Steelers’ franchise financially.

Will Pittsburgh draft a HBCU player this year? Right now, it’s impossible to say. But Khan and the Steelers will have done their homework. Like Colbert, Khan is getting his eyes on these guys. For as much tape as you can watch, as many numbers as you can crunch, there’s value in watching a player up close and personal. Khan might not have the deep-seeded scouting background like Colbert. But he spent more than 20 years alongside the guy. It’s clear he’s learned a couple of tricks of the trade.

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