When you play in a college all-star game, it is less about the stats you put up. It is more the plays you make, or don’t make. It’s about the impressions left on the pro coaches and scouts in attendance. The players may like the stats, but the scouts are more looking for what you can do against good competition.
For the record the National team, coached by Marvin Lewis, beat the American team, coached by Hue Jackson, 30-20 Saturday night at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
National Team Wins NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Chattanooga quarterback Nick Tiano was the game MVP. He was eight of 10 passing for 135 yards and a touchdown. He split the quarterback duties for the National team with Reid Sinnett of the University of San Diego. Sinnett was nine of 16 for 93 yards. The National team had 175 rushing yards spread out over seven players. The leading rusher was Jason Huntley of New Mexico State with seven carries for 53 yards and a touchdown.
For the American team, quarterback Nathan Rourke of the University of Ohio was eight of 15 for 126 yards. Brian Lewerke of Michigan State, who started the game, was seven of 14 for 40 yards and a touchdown. Raymond Cailais of Louisiana-Lafayette led the American ground game with four carries for 25 yards. He also had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown.
But the stats only matter to the players that are looking to keep them as a memory of the week. For most of the players, it was about showing what they have in front of NFL scouts.
For Lewis, who led a coaching staff of former NFL all-pros, it was about the teaching opportunities all week. “It’s a pure look at these guys and just an opportunity for us to the best job we can to teach them. It’s a fundamental thing to come out here and play successful football and display it in the drills all week in practice.”
Lewis said the goal of the staff was to give an opportunity to the players to shine in front of NFL personnel. “The biggest thing is to give an opportunity for these guys to show their abilities out there on the practice field. We organized everything that way so that they can show the NFL their abilities, their skills and so forth.” He called the effort from his team impressive. He specifically pointed out the lack of errors.
He specifically gave praise to Tiano and UCLA linebacker Krys Barnes. “Obviously Krys made some plays tonight. But I thought all week long he demonstrates his ability to learn what we were doing. He really moves well and has a very good understanding of football.” As for Tiano he said, “He did a tremendous job tonight.”
For players like Tiano and Cailais Lewis says the opportunity for a week like this is invaluable. They play at smaller schools and ate not always seen on a bigger platform. “It’s a great opportunity for them to go show that they can come on any field because once you get to the NFL, you are playing against everyone. It doesn’t matter where you came from. It doesn’t matter how you got there. It’s just what you do once you are there. I think by coming out here tonight and demonstrating the abilities that they have, they show that they deserve an opportunity.”
For Tiano, he called it a lot of fun. “Tonight, was great for our team. We came out and executed as well as we could have after a week. It was everything it was supposed to be.”
He said the anything he could get from the staff during the week was the real value. “I think any time you get a chance to be cached by all these coaches, they have so much experience and advice and wisdom they can pass along; you take so much away from this experience on the field and off the field. I try to make as I can going forward. From the day I got my invite until now it has been so exciting. Coming out here it blew away every one of my expectations.”
Arkansas State receiver Omar Bayless was one of the nation’s leading receivers all year. He took in the entire experience. “I learned a lot, a lot of different things from a lot of veterans.” He said it is a lot to get through in just a handful of days. “Once you translate it all on the field and get to moving around, that’s when everything slows down because you actually know what you are doing.” He echoed Lewis’ thoughts that it is an opportunity for the smaller school players. “It’s just to show what we are capable of you know even in our conference or at our school.”
Most of the players go from here back to workouts with their own trainers. Pro days for most schools are in March.
Main Photo: PASADENA, CA – JANUARY 18: National Team players celebrate on the field with the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl trophy after the Nationals defeated the American Team 30 to 20 in a game played on January 18, 2020 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)