Theodore Native Lamical Perine
Photo | courtesy the university of florida
The 71st annual Reese’s Senior Bowl takes place this Saturday. Some of the best college football players in the nation will be displaying their talents.
However, the last time Ladd-Peebles Stadium was sold out for the all-star game was 2012. Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy said there is a good chance seats will be at a premium, with kickoff set for 1:30 p.m.
“I’m really excited for this year’s game,” Nagy said at the annual media luncheon. “As great as the football players are, we plan to have more for the fans.”
Nagy said he learned a lot when he attended the NFL Draft last year in Nashville. In addition to the selection of players, numerous activities took place over the three days (such as concerts by Tim McGraw and Dierks Bentley). Nashville officials estimate an economic impact of $223.9 million, with a combined 600,000 people on hand for the football, music and food festival.
“We want to pattern the Senior Bowl after that scene,” Nagy said. “We want to draw the masses.”
The agenda starts Thursday. The Senior Bowl Summit returns to the Saenger Theatre from 8 a.m. to noon. ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap will be the moderator while the keynote speaker is entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
“Gary is a big deal in social media,” Nagy said. “He came last year and saw the potential of the Senior Bowl. He wanted to be a part of this.”
Later, at 8 p.m. inside the Soul Kitchen Music Hall, will be the Lip Sync Battle. Organizers say teams made up of community members will bring their best moves and compete before a panel of celebrity judges and peers.
Back again on Friday is the Senior Bowl Experience at the Mobile Convention Center from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Fans will be able to try the obstacle course, be timed in the 40-yard dash, dance with NFL cheerleaders, have photos taken with college mascots and meet some of the players.
“We want to build off the events we have had for years,” Nagy said. “Mardi Gras is such a huge part of Mobile that we thought we should have a parade where the players can take part.”
The inaugural procession starts at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The unique route will begin at the intersection of Royal and Government streets. It will proceed north before turning onto Dauphin Street. Local high school bands will lead the players and other bowl representatives to Cathedral Square.
That is where the highly anticipated free concert starring The Revivalists will start at 7:30 p.m. The New Orleans group has garnered more than 300 million total streams online while being named Billboard’s Top New Rock Artist of 2017. The Revivalists were just announced to the Jazz & Heritage Fest lineup.
“We decided to go big or go home,” Nagy said. “This band is on the cusp of breaking out. We are preparing for 15,000 to 20,000 people downtown for that night.”
On game day, the Piggly Wiggly Tailgate event will take place in Ladd-Peebles Stadium’s East Parking Lot from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The purchase of game tickets at participating Piggly Wiggly locations in Mobile and Baldwin counties grants access to the party, which will include food and live music in a family-friendly atmosphere.
Another incentive this year is a special raffle. Upon entry to the stadium, fans are asked to tear off the bottom of their ticket and place the stub in orange raffle boxes for a chance to win $1,000, $2,500 or $5,000. The three winners will be drawn at random for an on-field recognition and final challenge. The drawing is during the fourth quarter, so stay all game for a chance to win.
“The Senior Bowl is a local tradition that always brings fresh talent to Mobile,” Mayor Sandy Stimpson told Lagniappe. “It’s our front-row seat to the next step for our beloved college players. These new events are a great way to get more people involved in the excitement of Senior Bowl week.”
The reason for the game, though, remains the players. Many of pro football’s future stars will be showcased during the week.
NFL coaches and scouts will be in Mobile to watch the practices. All the workouts at Ladd-Peebles Stadium are open to the public.
“Last year’s game featured 10 players taken in the first round of the NFL Draft,” Nagy said. “We had 93 players drafted overall, and all but three made an NFL roster.
“As impressive as that was, I feel even better about this year’s roster.”
Included is one name familiar to local fans. Among the running backs is the University of Florida’s Lamical Perine, a former all-state performer at Theodore High School. He actually paid for his own bus ticket to attend the Gators’ prospect camp, where he eventually impressed the coaches enough to receive a scholarship offer.
With opponents often daring the Gators to throw the ball this year, Perine was limited to 676 yards rushing with six touchdowns while he caught 40 passes for 262 yards and five more scores.
Perine, though, saved his best for his final game. He was named the MVP in the Orange Bowl as he rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries against Virginia. He also added five catches for 53 yards and another touchdown.
“I am fired up on how he ended his career,” Nagy said. “The running back position is dependent on so many other players. He went against a lot of box defenses looking to shut down the run.
“I think he is one of the top two or three running backs available for the draft. It is always great to bring a player back home for the Senior Bowl.”
Both rosters will be filled with stars. However, few will be followed as much as Oklahoma Sooner quarterback Jalen Hurts. After becoming a fan favorite at The University of Alabama, Hurts transferred for his final year of eligibility and ended up as the Heisman Trophy runner-up.
“He is certainly a guy we wanted to get,” Nagy said. “Jalen really handles himself so well on and off the field.”
The coaching staffs from Cincinnati and Detroit will oversee the workouts. The Bengals, who have the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft, have indicated they would like LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to accept his invitation to the Senior Bowl. However, no decision by the Heisman Trophy winner had been made at the time this article was written.
A list of all those playing in the game can be found at seniorbowl.com/the-game/accepted-invites.
“We want the best of the best,” Nagy said. “We don’t want people to see a bunch of free agents. The Senior Bowl has always been a proving ground.”
Tickets, which range from $10 to $30, can be purchased by calling 251-432-4109 or by visiting the Senior Bowl office at 151 Dauphin Street. The NFL Network will carry the game.
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