The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be played Saturday at the Rose Bowl for the first time after the first six editions were played at StubHub Center in Carson.
“When the San Diego Chargers relocated to Los Angeles and StubHub Center became their home field, it opened up an opportunity for us to explore new options for our game site,” said Teri Smith, NFLPA Collegiate Bowl director and deputy managing director of the NFL Players Association, the union representing the league’s players and which organizes the college football all- star game.
“The Rose Bowl’s rich football history at both the professional and collegiate levels makes it a perfect fit for our game, which continues to grow every year.”
The game gives players who recently completed their college careers opportunities to impress NFL personnel and learn about off-field aspects of the league.
Most of the NFL’s 32 teams had representatives at the practices that began on Monday at the Rose Bowl, with more than 200 scouts expected to attend the practices and game, according to Brandon Parker, the union’s communications manager.
Tarik Cohen, a 5-foot-6-inch running back, said the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl helped him be chosen in the fourth round of April’s NFL draft by the Chicago Bears.
“With my circumstances in being a small guy from a (historically black university) like North Carolina A&T, the odds were stacked against me,” Cohen said. “Playing in the Collegiate Bowl helped get me the looks I needed, along with great advice from coaches, to be in the position I am today.”
Cohen tied for third among NFL rookie running backs in receptions (53) and in a 27-24 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens Oct. 15, became the first NFL player 5 feet 6 inches or shorter to throw a touchdown pass since 1934.
The game’s other prominent alumni include Marquette King, the Oakland Raiders punter since 2013, Chargers inside linebacker Jatavis Brown, Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Lambo, New England Patriots strong safety Duron Harmon, Seattle Seahawks tight end Luke Willson and Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
The NFLPA conducts the game in an attempt to introduce its more than 100 players to the association and business of the NFL, said George Atallah, the union’s assistant executive director of external affairs.
The union conducts educational seminars — dubbed NFLPA U — on the nights leading up to the game where players learn about agents, financial management and “rising to (the) professional ranks,” Smith told City News Service.
Game week activities also include a panel discussion with active NFL players “so that the collegiate players can get the real deal” about joining the NFL, Smith said.
Running back Terrell Watson, the MVP of the 2015 Collegiate Bowl who played 11 games in the 2017 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he learned “a lot” in the pregame sessions about “the NFL life outside of football, what to look out for, how to handle your money when you have a lot of money, who to keep in and out of your circle.”
The players are divided into National and American teams, like the NFL’s conferences.
Former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz will coach Team National for the fourth consecutive year. Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green will coach Team American for the first time.
Green has been an assistant coach in the game, connecting with players through stories about being overlooked out of college and consistently tabbed as undersized.
The assistant coaches include Pro Football Hall of Fame member Jackie Slater, former USC linebacker Chris Claiborne, former St. Louis Rams receiver Torry Holt and former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Team American’s roster includes USC receiver Steven Mitchell, a graduate of Alemany High School in Mission Hills, defensive tackle Jacob Tuioti- Mariner and defensive back Jaleel Wadood, teammates at UCLA and St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, and quarterback Kenny Hill, who helped lead Texas Christian to an 11-3 record, including a 39-37 victory over Stanford in the Alamo Bowl, and the No. 9 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.
Team National’s roster includes Arkansas quarterback Allen Austin, who led the Southeastern Conference in passing yards in 2016, Demario Richard, a Palmdale High alumnus who had two 1,000-plus rushing seasons at Arizona State, and Stanford fullback Daniel Marx, a Mission Viejo High alumnus.
Although game organizers divide the teams in an attempt to ensure competitive balance, Team National has won each of the previous six games.
The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
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