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Senior Bowl Diary: One week away.

Disclaimer: This post isn’t necessarily about football. If you’re “not interested in your (my) life story” or my experiences at the Senior Bowl, turn back now.

Hello and welcome to what will be the first of a series of articles detailing my trip to the 2020 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.

I don’t intend this series to be heavy on analysis but I hope to use it to relate my experience at the event surrounded by NFL executives, scouts and coaches. Not to mention the players themselves, their agents and media members whose work I’ve long read and been a fan of myself. If nothing else I hope this series will be a valuable look into what goes on behind the scenes at one of the NFL’s biggest scouting events of the year.

In order to really understand my perspective on this event you’re going to have know some things about me that I’ve never talked about in any capacity on Stampede Blue.

Buckle up, cupcake.

First; I still just view myself as a fan. I’ve written a lot of words for Stampede Blue and along with Chris Blystone and Jim Campbell I’ve talked for hours on the Stampede Radio Podcast. In season I spend no less than 20 hours per week watching film, doing research and writing about NFL football and the Colts’ opponents. So while my relationship with football probably isn’t the same as most fans, that’s still how I see myself, I’m just a regular guy with a hobby.

Second; I’ve lived a pretty interesting life. By “pretty interesting” I don’t mean that I’ve spent time in prison or that I’m especially well traveled, I mean I’ve chosen things in life that not many other people have chosen. This doesn’t make me special, in fact, in many cases it has been detrimental personally and professionally. In other cases it’s allowed me some really unusual opportunities, I’ll get into that a little later.

Third; I’ve always tried to live with a “shoot your shot” mindset. There are some chances you only get once and I’ve always wanted to make the most of them. While standing in line for an autograph at Colts training camp I asked Andrew Luck if he wanted to come with me and my friends to get drinks on his day off. I told him I would buy him a beer. He laughed and told me he would check his schedule. Andrew, if by some miracle you read this I would like you to recheck that schedule, I believe you may have some free time and I will still buy you that beer.

I once thought of the funniest thing I could say for at least five minutes waiting in line to shake the hand of a former US president. My joke wasn’t meant for the former president, it was meant for the Secret Service agent standing next to him. I don’t remember exactly what the joke was but I remember that it was actually, legitimately, funny but when I told it the agent glared directly into my soul showing absolutely no emotion. His stoicism was kind of amazing.

I’m not really sure what I stood to gain in those two situations or in the dozens of other times I’ve deeply embarrassed the people I’m with but I have too many stories to tell, just because I’m constantly trying to make those rare moments even more memorable.

As a fan, just a regular guy, who happens to have a media credential to the Senior Bowl, I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t act like a fan, I have to be professional. I have to pretend that I’m supposed to be there. I mean, I am supposed to be there. But am I, really?

I don’t have any illusions that I’ll be doing things like eating dinner with Frank Reich and Doug Pederson but there is a very real chance that I’m going to be meeting some personal heroes even if they’re “just” media scouts, I might bump into some of the very people that inspired me to want to write in the first place and I have to try to play it cool.

I’ve been in similar situations before:

I’m the guy in the second row all the way on the left.

Now, I don’t expect anyone reading this football blog to know who any of these people are but I promise, I don’t belong in this photo. So who are these people? Before I tell you that, here’s a little more you probably didn’t know about me:

I’m the one on the bottom.

Maybe I’ll regret showing the internet this part of my life* but my college career included an athletic scholarship and I partied with a lot college cheerleaders, plus I used to be able to do this:

Checkmate, haters.

So what do those things have to do with that first picture? The people in that picture are some of the most prolific college cheerleading coaches in NCAA history. Representatives from Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, Purdue, Morehead State, Alabama and Tulane. And there I am, a graduate assistant from a small private school in Kansas City that no one had ever heard of. It was a recruiting event and I was there trying to scout talent and recruit the types of kids that would help grow our program and I was there recruiting against Jomo Thompson (second row, center) who has won more than 20 national championships.

I didn’t sign any recruits that day, unsurprisingly.

That picture still may not impress you. I get it, they’re just a bunch of cheerleading coaches but for me, at that point in my life, being in that picture was mind blowing. I was an impostor surrounded by legends, pretending to be their peer.

The Senior Bowl couldn’t be more different. I’m not recruiting against anyone, I don’t have a booth with pamphlets showing the newest buildings from the best angles on campus and I don’t have any scholarships to offer. It’s different for sure but I can’t help but think of that recruiting event, years ago. Yes, I do write a lot about football. I have contributed to the annual draft guide (yes, there’s a draft guide). And I have the same credentials as my heroes that I might run into in Mobile, but the thought of being there is still a little surreal. I guess we’re the same now, at least that’s what I have to pretend.

One thing that you can be sure of, if by some insane chance I happen to run into Frank Reich or Chris Ballard, I’m going to shoot my shot, I’ll probably have a story to tell and you’re going to be the first to hear about it.

I hope you stay tuned for the coverage that Zach Hicks and I will be providing during next weeks Senior Bowl events. I will have another diary post later this week detailing my travel plans and a rough itinerary for the week, if for no other reason than it might help me come up with a plan. I feel like I should have a plan.

*I won’t regret it. As a male college cheerleader you either had a lot of confidence in yourself or you quit. I realized pretty early on that the guys who tried to give me a hard time about it were the same ones sitting on their couch doing nothing wishing they were out talking to girls, while I was out, talking to girls.