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2021 Senior Bowl Diary: Day 1, return to Mobile

I woke up today in Mobile, Alabama. I was excited to get a jump on my Senior Bowl week. I showed up outside of Senior Bowl headquarters, the Renaissance Hotel a little before 9 AM. I didn’t have anything to do until around noon when I could pick up my credential, but my hotel is two blocks away and I was interested to see who was milling around and what was going on.

As it turned out; not much.

For a little more than an hour and a half, I sat outside catching up on all that Twitter had to offer while I drank plenty of coffee. In that time I saw a lot of Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins employees coming and going. Which makes sense as those are the two coaching staffs that will be coaching up the North and South rosters this week. At one point a couple of young men came out carrying two large, obviously heavy, Powerade coolers that they carried with them into another door before returning with the coolers that were now obviously empty. This was the highlight of my morning.

Realizing I could be using my time more productively doing almost anything else, I decided to head inside and see if I could pick up my credential a little early. So around 10:30 I walked in and asked the police officer guarding the escalator to the second floor where I could pick up my credential. A year ago there was no guard and people moved freely all throughout the hotel, I was absolutely blown away with the access I had to everyone and everything. This year, it seems, COVID has taken that access. Now the only people allowed on the second floor have received a COVID test from the Senior Bowl. Shockingly, no one at the Senior Bowl thought to schedule Chris Shepherd from Stampede Blue for a test.

The officer checked his printed off schedule and with a tone that let me know he didn’t become a cop to sit in a hotel lobby and check badges at what amounts to Gen Con for football nerds, he told me I was early and then he sent me across the street to the convention center. I knew it was wrong based on the emails I had already received, but I just spent an hour and a half seeing nothing, if I did what I was told and went across the street there was a chance I would see something at least slightly interesting.

Instead, I talked to a very nice young lady who apologized for not being able to help me before she sent me back across the street to the hotel. Nothing interesting at all.

On my way back via the sky bridge between the convention center and the hotel, I decided I would head back to my room if I didn’t see an obvious place for media members to get their passes. As I walked through the lobby, it was obvious there was nothing there. So I walked back out the front door when something slightly interesting, finally, happened.

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was talking with a Panthers employee, I assume he was an assistant coach but I didn’t recognize the man who seemed younger than me. It seemed like Rhule was possibly running behind or was just short on time. They were talking about coffee, Rhule turned to go with the young coach when he told Rhule he would get it for him. Rhule made sure it was okay and genuinely thanked him for doing him the favor.

Matt Rhule didn’t know anyone was paying attention to his interaction, but there he was, an NFL head coach thanking someone for doing him a favor when he could have demanded it instead.

I have a degree in organizational management, it has served almost no purpose in my professional life but I was and am fascinated by organizational leadership and motivation, and even though this was my only experience with Rhule, if that’s who he is all the time, it’s easy to see why everyone speaks of him so highly. I’m excited to get to watch Rhule and his staff run practice this week.

If you were wondering, Matt Rhule likes his coffee black.

At 11:45 I got an email from the Senior Bowl staff that listed the credential pick-up times and removed today as an option. So no credentials today. All I got was that story about Matt Rhule that, frankly, just isn’t that exciting.

I’m not someone who likes to go out, but it seems like the only way I might have a chance to make these stories interesting (to both read and write) is if I hit a few spots in downtown Mobile and try to talk to people. Frankly, it sounds terrible but in a few minutes, I’ll be headed to Veets all the same.

Wish me luck.