MOBILE, Ala. — The Senior Bowl isn’t only for watching practice and creating scouting reports on what players can do on the field. It’s also for talking.
And there is a lot of talking.
Media will report breathlessly about which players are meeting with each team this week. In truth, the Saints and every other team will speak with each player at the event. And while the actual football aspect still reigns supreme, players can help or damage their draft stock while sitting down with a team.
“They can get our attention,” general manager Mickey Loomis said. “They can get our attention by the way they practice, by the things that we see collectively, as well as the interview process.”
New Orleans has most of its staff here this week, which makes it easy for the organization to cover a lot of ground and speak with every player. Some of those who met with the team, such as Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, were given a hat with the team’s logo on it.
Many of the interviews are the same. Players are asked about their families, interests and how they grew up. Then it usually veers into questions about the strengths and weaknesses of their games, injury histories and then some things about football.
Shepard, whose father, Derrick, played for the Saints as a wide receiver in 1989, said he spoke with Loomis and that the meeting was like most of the others he’s had this week.
“It can get in-depth, but they’re mainly general questions right now, asking about your home life and asking some small things on football, trying to test your knowledge a little bit,” Shepard said.
Those deeper meetings will happen at the scouting combine next month and when players take official visits to the club’s facility later in the draft process.
Still, a first impression is something that is important and can open the door for a second interview down the line.
“I think we value them a lot. We get to get a little gauge on personality and just how sharp they are, what they know, in terms of football, and our coaches get to spend a little time with them,” Loomis said. “Actually, they get to spend a lot of time with them. That is an important part of this process.”
Mississippi State star Dak Prescott is spending his week trying to prove to NFL scouts that he can offer their offenses some of the dual-threat capabilities that have made Cam Newton so devastating for Carolina.
But the similarities between Prescott and Newton don’t run any deeper than state ties.
When Prescott, a native of Haughton, sits down to watch the Super Bowl, he’ll be cheering for the classic pocket quarterback.
“I’m rooting for Peyton Manning,” Prescott said. “He’s a Louisiana guy. I’m from Louisiana, so I’m rooting for him to get his second (ring).”
Prescott’s allegiance to Manning is more than just the Louisiana connection.
By virtue of the Manning Passing Academy, Peyton, Eli and Archie played a role in Prescott’s development.
“Great guy, great family,” Prescott said. “I’ve been at the Manning camp the past two years, so he’s one of my favorites, always been an all-time favorite. Cam’s probably one of my next favorite, but we’ll go with the older fella right now.”
All Skip Holtz wanted was a photo.
The Louisiana Tech head coach and his staff made the trip to the Senior Bowl on Wednesday to watch his trio of coveted seniors — defensive tackle Vernon Butler, running back Kenneth Dixon and quarterback Jeff Driskel — practice in preparation for Saturday’s showcase.
And even though the North team was hurried off the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium to make room for the South team, Holtz made sure he got a picture with all three players right before they boarded the team bus.
The Bulldogs matched a program high by placing three players in the annual showcase, matching 2012, when punter Ryan Allen, tackle Jordan Mills and wide receiver Quinton Patton played in the game.
“It says a lot about these young men, and to have them represent Louisiana Tech, that’s why I wanted to be here, to support them and let them know how proud we are of what they’re doing.”