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The upcoming Senior Bowl is more than an event for players to run routes or quarterbacks to show off their arm strength. It’s a four-day process that starts with each player getting into their underwear in front of hundreds of NFL personnel for the official weigh-in. This is how the week starts, so imagine the next few days.
It all begins Sunday, as NFL scouts, coaches and GM’s descend upon Mobile, Alabama looking for the next franchise player to lead their organization. Over the course of the day, players will start arriving from all across the country, while their helmets and shoulder pads have been in Mobile for the past week.
This is their first big test to become an NFL star. The second level of the hotel is full of agents and marketing reps walking around, trying to pitch themselves or a product. A gathering spot for coaches and players to chat about their social life or what their attitude was like in college. These NFL teams have already asked folks on each college campus what the players are like off the field. Make no mistake, this is the NFL testing these players, from the interviews to the full medical examinations.
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It Should Remind You Of That Scene In Jerry McGuire
Remember when Tom Cruise is walking around with Cuba Gooding Jr. at the NFL Draft? Cruise is trying to make Gooding look like the star player on radio row and to every advertiser possible. That’s what this is like, but on a smaller scale.
If you’re lucky enough, a team will want to meet you in their suite to talk football, examine your mental makeup or try to trip you on a question regarding something that happened in school. For five days, it’s their first big job interview. These coaches will know stuff about players that should be kept in an inner-circle, but they find out. So, trying to sneak an injury by these teams won’t work. Heck, they know what you had for dinner while on campus.
At night, coaches and GM’s will head to the local Ruth’s Chris for dinner, which is like a goldmine for the servers, trust me I know. Jerry Jones will find the quiet spot in the back of the restaurant, while some owners will give a fake name, so folks won’t know they’re showing up. It’s wild what some of these teams will do to keep some sort of privacy.
Senior Bowl Practice Is The Catalyst, Not The Game
But having grown up in Mobile, it’s hard to keep everything a secret. It’s all routine now for these teams that come down to the Gulf Coast. For the players, this is a whole new world.
GEORGIA’S STETSON BENNETT WILL NOT PARTICIPATE IN SENIOR BOWL
The practices are the most important aspect of the week, not the game itself. Having hundreds of NFL personnel watching your every move can be a little overwhelming, but most players take advantage of the opportunity. Mike Tomlin could show up and want to see one particular player run a drill multiple times, making sure he’s the right guy for their draft board.
Outside of the practice time, players are meeting with the media or sitting down with their agents to discuss how they’ll attack the next three months. All your major players in the marketing world will be looking to get the star player to endorse their product, doing their best to not screw up the presentation.
College Coaches Coming Into Town To Support Players
The Senior Bowl is one of a kind, from start to finish. Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Josh Heupel and a plethora of college coaches will show up on a particular day to support the players wearing their school helmet. It’s good for these players to see their college coach, bringing them a little peace during this chaotic week.
If you’re a local, don’t be surprised to see John Harbaugh or Mike Vrabel sitting at the local coffee shop near the hotel. The players will have the opportunity to participate in a Mardi Gras parade late in the week, throwing beads and taking pictures.
Intimidating is a good word to use when describing the first day, as you stand up on a stage, wearing your best briefs, and hundreds of NFL scouts taking down every measurement. Though this event is now held on the day they arrive, it’s a quick reminder how intense this week will be. But, if you can get through the first day, the rest of the week should be a breeze on the field.
Simply put, this is a week that will start a player’s NFL dream. The circus is a test and if you can get through this week of madness, then you can handle the NFL Combine.
I hope Jerry Jones has forgotten what I look like, because spilling that drink on his table years ago was a pretty embarrassing moment.