Senior Bowl week can be broken down into 3 distinct phases. First phase are the practices, where the players get to gain valuable experience working with NFL staff, meet with team executives and coaches, get valuable looks from scouts and also get additional financial and profession counselling. This can be the week that a player makes or breaks himself, potentially earning or costing them millions in contract money. Practices by far make the most difference from a scouting perspective as these are pretty much for the eyes of NFL evaluators. They also have scheduled post practice private meetings with GM’s, as well as team hosted dinner events.
The second phase of Senior Bowl week is the interaction with the public. Players generally go to local hospitals, schools, etc. and they meet with kids/parents. There is also the player meet and greet scheduled for Friday of Senior Bowl week. This is an event I attended for the first time this year and it was a blast. I got to meet, and have brief conversations with players, some of which I left VERY impressed with. Each player meets with fans and signs autographs for about an hour and 15 minutes straight, and at a pretty fast pace. These events are designed for players to see the effect they have on fans lives, and how their actions and attitudes are important. It is also designed to prepare them for things to come, things like sitting down for hours on end to sign auto-graphs for both those fans who would travel across the country just to meet them, and to those who may be getting that signature for financial gain. Through it all is a revelation how giving back, and remaining professional and respectful to fans is now as much a part of their job as playing football.
The last phase is the game, and while it gets all the coverage, to be honest it’s the least important of all phases. It is the final test in a week full of preparation and scrutiny, the culmination of a very taxing week and a chance to put their college colors on one last time. They are stepping out of the old life and into the new. It’s the last College Bowl game, and yet, already they have new game, new rules, new formations, and new coaches who could possibly be part of their new lives. The week is kind of culture shock for a lot of them but in spite of how draining it, it’s really just the beginning. After the last seconds of that game, players have to start moving on, start thinking of what’s up next, start taking all the things learned at Senior Bowl, all those flaws that were pointed out to them and have those ironed out before Combine. Drop 10 pounds, shave a couple seconds off that 40 time, work on running better route, rehab that tweaked thigh muscle, they have 3 weeks.
There is one last thing for fans and it occurs right after the game ends. When the game ends, some fans stay behind and line up at fences near the buses the players leave in. This is something that is really important to me, so every year, I try my best to go see the players off. The players got to the locker rooms, change out and then walk out and say goodbye to their fans, sign their last autographs as college stars, and jump on the bus to go off and catch a plane and begin their professional lives. It’s always the best time to me, and sometimes the saddest. I have always had at least one player I have had to say goodbye to as a Gator, so in some ways it kinda stinks, but then again, it’s also very exciting. In some ways, to me, it’s almost similar to the feeling you get when you drop your kid off on that first day of school. I usually don’t bother with getting an autograph, I just shake some hands and tell them that I am hoping the best for them in the draft and the rest of their careers, It’s a great wrap up to one of my most favorite weeks of football.
As a postscript, I would like to say will have plenty about the prospects I met, comments about them, what some scouting information I got on, etc., but I’ll do them as comments, I typed this thing like 5 times, and each time it was so massive I decided to just focus on what the week means to the players and fans and try to bring a little bit of this experience to you guys. I hope maybe one year we can do a FU meet down here for the week and do this as a group. I think it would be a really great time.