MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — The 100-plus NFL prospects stripped down to their underwear and paraded across a stage to be measured and weighed before an auditorium packed with onlookers from the NFL.
Yes, it's Senior Bowl week. The annual showcase game for top senior NFL prospects — and a few juniors with degrees —officially started with pro football's version of the meat market, the weigh-in, on Tuesday morning.
The rest of the week is packed with interviews, meetings and, of course, practices under the scrutiny of NFL coaches, scouts and executives. The potential reward: Improved draft stock and a bigger payday.
"It's the greatest job fair in the football world," said Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage, a former Cleveland Browns general manager. "A hundred and 10 players, 32 teams, you're not going to have that ratio at any other point in your entire career. So you can make some hay here."
Savage's feeling is the only players who hurt themselves by coming are those that would have been exposed as not quite NFL worthy down the line, anyway.
The top prospects playing in Saturday's game include LSU offensive tackle La'el Collins, Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings and Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton. Other prolific college stars trying to boost their stock include Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty and Washington defensive end Hau'oli Kikaha.
"It's a great opportunity," said Clemmings, who didn't become a starter until moving from defensive end two years ago. "Some of the best players in the country are all in one place and we're going to be able to compete against one another."
Make no mistake, this isn't about the game, when many of the NFL types will have already hit the road. It's about the business of forging a pro career.
"Mom and Dad asked if I brought any collared shirts and I said, 'For what?'" said Petty, who's trying to show he can run a pro-style offense. "I'm going to be in sweats because I'm going to be in the hotel. If I'm not down here, I'm going to be in my playbook.
"This is exactly what this is for. I've worked not only the five years I've been at Baylor but the previous 16-17 years to be at this point. I'm going to approach this as such. This is the best job interview you can have. You don't even have to wear a shirt and tie."
Several projected first-rounders passed on playing in the Senior Bowl. Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is the most prominent, though Savage has a roster spot available.
West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White and Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree accepted invitations but changed their minds.
Missouri defensive end Markus Golden said the week is "draining" but he savors the competitive part of the process.
"At the end of the day, it's about competing," Golden said. "I feel like I can go up against anybody here and I bet they feel the same way. You're not going to come to the Senior Bowl if you're not a competitor. You see a lot of guys didn't come. This is a competitive environment."
Auburn defensive tackle Gabe Wright said it's important to act like a professional, even before the paychecks start coming in.
"Four years ago, you were kind of doing the same thing recruiting," Wright said. "Now, you just don't get to pick the school. They pick you. Now you have to make the best representation of yourself."
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Posted on Tue, January 20, 2015
by JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer