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.
Day one is in the books!
My day started, just as I predicted. I rolled out of bed around 6:05 AM, completely exhausted. I got dressed, brushed my teeth and went downstairs to grab some breakfast, normally I skip this meal but I wasn’t sure how long it would be before I would even see food again. Fortunately Homewood Suites had some decent bagel options. So I ate my all-carb breakfast on the way to the Renaissance Hotel, which serves as the headquarters for most Senior Bowl activities that don’t require 120 yards of grass.
The first thing on the agenda was picking up my credentials. With one small, round, laminated name tag I would be allowed in all sorts of cool places. After walking approximately 20 minutes in the wrong direction (the hotel is attached to the convention center and all told it’s a pretty spacious couple of buildings) I finally found the table that held all of the power.
I’ve only taken this thing off to shower and sleep since I picked it up.
The Senior Bowl is this weird mix of soon-to-be NFL players, coaches, scouts, media members, fans and of course regular people just trying to do their jobs who get caught in the crossfire. As bizarre as this event is in general, there’s this weird normalcy between people who have those credentials and then there’s the fans. Most of them are seeking autographs, and a few (it’s a pretty small percentage) of them don’t look like they’re trying to sell those autographs on Ebay. The other fans, well, I’m not sure what they’re doing to be honest. I suppose they just like hanging out in the Renaissance Hotel lobby, being around players and NFL types. That credential is all that separates me from those folks and every coach, player and scout glances at my credential, I assume they know I’m not trying to sell their signature but most of them obviously don’t want to be cornered by a media guy they don’t recognize.
After I picked up my credential it was time to will my exhausted body to the prospect weigh ins. I did get there a little late, I was dragging, but as it turns out if I get to come back here next year there’s a pretty good chance I’ll skip the weigh in all together.
This picture isn’t great but it’s the only one I thought to take. Inside that curtain is a very large room full of people watching football players walk across a stage in their underwear, measure their height, record their weight and then walk off the stage. It took a couple hours to get through everyone.
Like I said, I’ll probably skip this one next year.
Next up was a short break before media day. I arranged to meet up with fellow Stampede Blue writer Zach Hicks. It was good finally meeting him in person and it was going to be nice to get some advice from someone who had been here before. As it turns out Zach and I think a lot a like and our mom’s dress us the same:
If you thought that last picture was bad, it’s because you hadn’t seen this one. There’s a very good reason Brett didn’t ask me to take pictures for the site (or model any products, I’m ugly, I get it). Despite this awful picture I was trying my best to show that Zach (pictured behind me facing away from the camera) and I are wearing the same shirt. We were also both wearing jeans. We lucked out though, his shoes were black and my boots are brown. Close call.
After meeting Zach I’ve basically followed him around like a lost puppy, he’s introduced me to dozens of people, people I follow on twitter and I couldn’t be more appreciative of how much he’s helped me out when he really didn’t have to. When Zach asked me if I was ready for media day, I lied and said I was. I don’t think I could have really been ready for what was to follow.
Media day happens by putting a bunch of college seniors in a room with many, many more media members and letting whatever happens, happen. What happens is little more than a feeding frenzy of bad questions from national and local reporters (bloggers included). There are hundreds of basic answers given from well coached athletes. They’ve obviously been prepared to answer questions and they’re doing their best to be patient and professional but at the same time no one asking the questions are trying to trip these guys up.
I was standing close by a prospect who was being asked questions, the prospect had recently gotten into some minor trouble and even though getting his comment on the matter would have made for a big story, no one asked him about it. Senior Bowl media day just doesn’t feel right for that kind of a question.
There were four of these interview areas set up while other prospects, mostly lower profile players, walked around in the room mostly looking uncomfortable and waiting for the nightmare to end.
Justin Herbert got caught answering some of those iffy questions I talked about. Also something interesting to note, the expression he has in this photo hasn’t changed at all. It’s honestly kind of amazing how indifferent he seems to be.
Once media day ended we were on the move over to Ladd-Peebles Stadium to watch practice.
Arriving at Ladd-Peebles is interesting on its own. It hosts the home games for the South Alabama Jaguars in the fall and it was built in 1947. Outside of the playing surface, it doesn’t appear to have been updated much since 1947. With that said, it’s a fine stadium considering the nature of the senior bowl.
After parking in my half-grass, half-pavement parking spot, I walked toward the entrance. There was a group of a few guys in front of me and they all walked toward a side door fairly far from the main entrance. I didn’t know where they were going but I figured if I acted like I was supposed to be there they wouldn’t stop me. So by the time I got on the elevator (still completely unsure of just where it would be taking me) with all of them and an older gentleman who appeared to be fairly important, wearing an NFL team (orange) credential, I knew I was in for whatever was on the other end of that ride.
Once we stepped out of the elevator on the third floor I found myself walking into the press box. Deciding I wanted to find Zach and his friends I sent him a message and decided not to hang out in the climate controlled room upstairs, a decision I would come to regret.
When I left Kansas City it was around 15 degrees. When I came to southern Alabama I assumed that it would be warmer than the Midwest and I was right! It made it all the way up to 40 degrees! Which is warmer than the Midwest. So doing things like walking outside to your car or walking from your car in to a store or work, 40 degrees feels pretty good in comparison.
When you’re sitting outside for 4-5 hours on cold aluminum bleachers wearing jeans, what amounts to a light sweatshirt and no hat, gloves or coat, 40 degrees stops feeling pretty good.
I was able to take notes on the South team offensive and defensive lines but by the time the North team took the field my fingers were numb and I actually wasn’t thinking very clear, though that could have been the lack of sleep, or lack of food, or a combination of everything. My notes of the North team consisted of one mental note that Neville Gallimore blew up an offensive lineman.
Once practice ended I went directly to the nearest Target where I bought a hoodie, a hat and gloves. I was determined to make Wednesday a more enjoyable day at practice.
Keep checking in for more Senior Bowl coverage all this week!