For one week preceding the Collegiate Bowl, participants have the chance to work with NFL players and coaches, giving them first-hand insight on what it takes to win on and off of the field. The squads are led by two coaching legends this year. Former head coach Dick Vermeil, who lead the Rams to a Super Bowl win in 1999, will coach the National Team, and Herm Edwards will coach the American Team, the former NFL cornerback who turned coach then ESPN analyst. Vermeil gave Edwards his NFL start in 1977, when Vermeil coached the Eagles. Since their days in Philly, the two have met while coaching for opposing teams. Edwards is a legend as much for his personality as for his coaching, ranging from his famous rant while with the Jets (below – “You play to win the game”) to his well known speech to rookies at the Rookie Symposium.
One of the main advantages to the aspiring pros is the ability to interact with the game at a professional level, highlighting the differences they will encounter in the NFL, for those lucky enough to make it. “The NFLPA Collegiate Bowl prepared me for my professional career,” said Washington Redskins cornerback Richard Crawford. “It acclimated me to the level that they coached, understanding the NFL game, because the college level is so different.”
In addition to the coaching legends, many of today’s players will be in attendance and the collegiate players will get the chance to meet with members of the NFLPA and learn about the union. “What I remember most about the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl experience is who we were surrounded by,” said Pittsburgh Steelers guard Kelvin Beachum. “You had Will Shields, Kevin Mawae, Tony Richardson and a host of guys that have played multiple years in the National Football League. You had some free agents that were there to give their advice on what could happen if you were not drafted, and then you had some of the drafted players that spoke about how to keep the job once you make the team. So many different players from all different positions that walked the walk that we were about to embark upon.”
A few players to keep an eye on are:
• Marquise Goodwin, Olympic track star, Texas running back and track athlete, and four-time member of UT’s AD’s Honor Roll.
• Jordan Rogers, Vanderbilt’s QB with a familiar last name, his brother Aaron Rodgers was last year’s NFL MVP and MVP of Super Bowl XLV.
• Marcus Cromartie, an impacting DB from Wisconsin and cousin of Jet’s CB Antonio Cromartie.