Photos: R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl _lowres

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD – Louisiana Tech Bulldogs wide receiver Trent Taylor (5) gets past Arkansas State Red Wolves linebacker Austin Copeland (50) during the fourth quarter Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, of the New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

MOBILE, Ala. — Trent Taylor spent the first 3½ quarters of Saturday’s Senior Bowl doing something he never did in four years at Louisiana Tech.

He waited for a pass to be thrown his way. And waited. And waited.

“It’s different from playing in college and having 136 catches last year,” said Taylor, third all-time in NCAA history in career catches (327). “It was a different feeling for me, but I knew my opportunity was going to come.”

It came with 5 minutes left in the North team’s 16-15 loss to the South at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Taylor lunged for a high pass, fully extending his compact frame — he measured at 5-foot-7½ earlier this week. He brought down the 20-yard catch, wowing fans, scouts and coaches on hand watching the nation’s most high-profile college all-star game.

He wasn’t the only small-school Louisiana talent to flash his skills in this one.

In the first quarter, Grambling’s Chad Williams, a late addition to the game, caught a short pass and turned it into a 10-yard first down with a shifty move on a defensive back. Tulane’s Tanzel Smart started at defensive tackle and played significant snaps late in a close game.

“It just goes to show, man, if you can play, they’re going to find you,” said Williams, who like Smart is a Baton Rouge native passed over by major programs like LSU and others. “Anyone can play anywhere, man. It’s real good for the whole state of Louisiana. Us guys came here and put on and put Louisiana on our back.”

Smart, Taylor and Williams don’t play for Power 5 juggernauts or football powerhouses, and they weren’t five-star talents out of their respective Louisiana high schools (Williams at Madison Prep; Smart at Scotlandville; Taylor at Evangel Christian).

But here they were, at the Senior Bowl, showing out, no matter their size.

Smart was the smallest defensive tackle at the Senior Bowl, Taylor was the shortest player and Williams was the only player here from the SWAC.

“I think it’s huge for us,” Taylor said. “Anybody coming from a smaller school, all you hear is you don’t play good competition and it doesn’t add up right with all of your stats that you put up, but I think all of us, Chad, the guy from Tulane (Smart), had great weeks and proved we can play on the next level with anybody.”

They each had their moments — during the Senior Bowl game and the important week of practice leading up to Saturday’s affair.

Taylor’s one catch — that leaping 20-yarder — extended the North’s last-minute drive. He showed the hands that helped him become Louisiana Tech’s career receptions leader and a player who averaged more than 13 catches per game last year as a senior.

“I was waiting for one all game, but I know in a game like this you’ve got to be patient, wait your turn,” said Taylor, a projected late-round pick in the draft. “Just happy the QB threw my way.”

That didn’t happen moments later.

The North scored a touchdown on that final drive to pull within one point and elected to attempt a 2-point conversion. Taylor appeared to be the designed No. 1 receiver on the play. He was covered well, and ex-Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman’s pass to another receiver was intercepted.

Williams watched from the sidelines, rushing onto the field to celebrate moments later. He was targeted three times, only pulling in that first-quarter reception. He caught the pass on a short stop route of about 3-4 yards before fooling the defensive back for a 10-yard gain.

“That’s one of the tricks I’ve got in my bag, man,” said Williams, a projected free agent. “Whenever I break a route off, I always remember where I broke it off and where the DB was when I broke it off, and I picture the angle of the tackles so I can sense the feeling without even looking at you. It’s like a clock in your head. I do it all of the time.”

Smart is the highest projected of the small-school trio, picked by many to go between the third and fifth rounds of the draft.

“Me and Chad Williams grew up together and played basketball together,” Smart said. “It’s important for my fellow Louisianians to come here and showcase their talents.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter, @RossDellenger.