MOBILE, Ala. — Tuesday’s Senior Bowl weigh in is not for the shy.
First players come on a stage in the Mobile Convention Center wearing nothing but form-fitting compression shorts — a requirement because UnderArmour is a sponsor — to be sized up by the 500 or so NFL coaches, scouts and other personnel people in attendance.
And, then, when the players come off the stage, there are about 10 young ladies directing them what do next.
“Yeah, you want to look your best,” LSU fullback Connor Neighbors said, indicating he meant for both the NFL folks and the girls. “I probably sucked in my gut a little and puffed out my chest.
“I fluffed up my beard some, too.”
Neighbors should know the routine.
He is a third-generation Senior Bowler, perhaps the first to achieve that accomplishment.
His late grandfather, Billy Neighbors, an Alabama fullback was the MVP of the 1961 game, and his father, Wes Neighbors, a tight end for the Crimson Tide, played in the 1987 game.
“It’s quite an honor,” said Neighbors, who went from walk-on to Offensive MVP for the Tigers this despite never carrying the ball in his senior season. “But I’m here fighting for a chance to play in the NFL.
“I know fullbacks don’t get drafted very high, if at all. I can’t control that. But I can control how I perform.”
Neighbors, who worked for two weeks at a training center in New Jersey before coming to Mobile, checked in at 5-foot-10 and 242 pounds, and inch shorter but 12 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight at LSU.
“I was always playing at 240,” Neighbors said. “I feel like I’m in really good shape.”
Bayou State quartet
Along with Neighbors and LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins, cornerback Imoan Claiborne of Northwestern State and kicker Justin Manton of Louisiana-Monroe are in the game.
Also, offensive tackle Dillon Day of Mississippi State, who prepped at West Monroe, is on the South squad.
LSU fans will remember Day for being suspended for a game after stomping on the Tigers’ Davon Godchaux and Rashard Robinson on separate plays in the Bulldogs’ victory.
As it turns about, Day and Connors are rooming together this week.
“I asked him about it,” Neighbors said. “But I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
For as long as anyone can remember, the weigh-in and first practices have been on Monday.
But this year, bowl officials moved it to Tuesday. Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage explained that most of the personnel people had been leaving after Wednesday, leaving the players without anybody watching their last two days of practice, much less the game.
This will keep the scouts around for an extra day. Savage added that a survey of the players last year indicated they were tired at the end of the week as well, so this will one less practice session for them.
While the selection process of the Senior Bowl plus its close relationship with the NFL probably means true early draft entries will never be a part of the game, this is the third year that fourth-year juniors who have graduated from their schools are participating.
Wide receiver Sammie Coates of Auburn along with offensive tackle Donovan Smith and defensive end Deion Barnes, both of Penn State, are in the game.
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon was also eligible, but declined the invitation.
“We’re not expecting more than five or six players a year to fit into this category,” Savage said. “But they’ve put in their time on their teams and in school, so they should be rewarded.”
While having only three days of true practice limits both offenses and defenses to the basics, the team defenses are being allowed to use nickel packages on Sunday and the offenses can use three-and-four wide receiver sets.
Also, there will be “two-minute warnings” at the end of the first and third quarters to give the quarterback more experience in those situations.