Howard University’s Antoine Bethea and Ronald Bartell, Jr. provided a powerful one-two punch in the Bison’s secondary in recent years. Bethea, a free safety entering this year’s draft is drawing high interest from numerous teams who have requested personal workouts and visits. Bartell was the 50th overall selection in last year’s draft by the Rams, making him the first Howard University player selected higher than the sixth round.
Bethea is visiting Indianapolis today and with good reason. He’s the physical type of player that they’ve been adding to their secondary since last year’s draft when they selected Michigan’s Marlin Jackson with their first-round pick
Bethea is a hitter with excellent range. He’s led his team in tackles for the past three seasons, including an incredible sophomore year where he posted 109 tackles (71 solo), two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, and a blocked a punt.
As humble as he is talented, Bethea said, “I was just going out there and doing the things that Coach wanted me to do.”
Since Bethea has thrived in Howard University’s Cover 2 defensive scheme, it’s no small wonder that teams like the Colts are showing such strong interest in him. And the attraction is definitely mutual.
“I love the way Bob Sanders plays, and I’d love to be in a system like that, having real physical play all the time,” he said. “I feel really comfortable in that scheme.”
The transition to the NFL may be easier for Bethea than some other draft-eligible players, because learning from someone who understands the NFL and it’s nuances compared to college-level play won’t be new to him. He’s been tutored by Bisons defensive backs coach Ron Bolton, who played for the Patriots and the Browns.
“Him being in the NFL for eleven years, he knows the ins and outs – the do's and don’ts – on and off the field. He knows what’s up with players, and what the coaches want to see. He instilled in all the defensive backs here at Howard that work ethic on the field and in practice. Coach Bolton has meant a lot to me in my career,” he said with admiration.
While learning from Bolton, Bethea increased his time in the film room, dissecting offenses to make it easier for him to excel on game day.
“I’m able to get to the ball two or three steps faster than a person who doesn’t watch as much film,” he said.
Bethea is also an eager special teams player. And as a rookie, that’s a trait that won’t go unnoticed by NFL teams on draft day.
“Special teams is really a big part of the game – if you’re good at that, you can change the game. You can set the tone by going down the field and making a big hit, the great play,” he said. “So, I love being on special teams.”
Bethea bulked up from his usual playing weight at Howard in time for the Combine, adding some valuable muscle weight that he used to his advantage to post a pair of personal bests in Indianapolis. He ran a 4.39 forty-yard dash and did 19 reps of the 225-pound bench press. But Bethea says the additional weight wasn’t really a planned strategy for the Combine.
“When I left to train, I just wanted to be bigger, stronger and faster,” he explained. “I went down and trained really hard - took it really seriously.”
Bethea has rightfully earned a reputation as a smart, aggressive player. He’s drawn serious interest from no less than eight teams, most of whom are playoff-caliber clubs such as Seattle. Find out more about him, the teams that are showing interest, and his thoughts on playing for the Colts in this exclusive interview for our ColtPower Insiders.