TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - If you’re already bemoaning the absence of college football and would give anything for one last glimpse of that gold helmet with a spear, you can satisfy that final fix until spring practice beginning Saturday.
The college football all-star season swings into high gear Saturday with the East-West Shrine and Raycom College Football All-Star Classic games, which will include four Florida State players competing in their final games as collegians.
The bevy of all-star games – there are 11 in all now – actually began last week, where FSU reserve offensive tackle Daniel Glauser got things started as a member of the East squad in the Casino Del Sol All-Star game at Kino Stadium in Tucson, Az. Glauser alternated series at left tackle for the East squad, which dropped a 40-7 game that was broadcast (and still archived) on ESPN3.
To say the Seminoles are well-represented in the postseason – and hopefully the April NFL Draft – would be an understatement. In all, 10 of 16 scholarship seniors from the ACC and Orange champion Seminoles will, or have already, participated in postseason all-star games. Among those eligible Seminoles, defensive ends Cornellius Carradine and Brandon Jenkins, and tailback Chris Thompson, were not able to compete as they continue to rehab from surgeries which shortened their senior seasons. As early entries into the draft pool, defensive end Bjoern Werner and offensive tackle Menelik Watson are not eligible for postseason competition and await their invitations to the NFL Combine, which will be held Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis, Ind.
Long snapper Dax Dallenbach will handle all of the specialty duties for the Stars team at the inaugural Raycom College Football All-Star Classic, which kicks off at 3 p.m. (ET) Saturday from the legendary Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. From 1939-2001 it was the home of the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
And at 4 p.m., wide receiver Rodney Smith, defensive tackle Anthony McCloud and linebacker Nick Moody will suit up and play in the 88th edition of the East-West Shrine Game, which will be played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. and broadcast on the NFL Network. The trio of ‘Noles will play for the Jerry Glanville-coached East team.
The games bring to a conclusion a week of practices, which are equally important for the players, who are performing in front of NFL coaches, scouts and front-office personnel. In essence, they are job interviews in pads.
“That’s exactly what it is,” Moody said Thursday, at the conclusion of practice. “That’s what they tell us when we get here. You’re definitely more aware (of the scouts) and you try and perform at a high level every day. The scheme is not too complicated and lets you show your ability.”
In many cases, how the players perform throughout their all-star week preparation will go a long way toward achieving their NFL dreams. In the case of Moody, Smith and McCloud, Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices were the most closely monitored by the NFL personnel on hand.
“It’s like real practice; fast-paced and real physical,” Moody said. “It’s important to show first-hand what you can do – how quickly you can learn the schemes – plus you work with veteran coaches so much that you learn a lot of things, too.”
While the goal for every player is to be selected in the NFL Draft, Dellenbach understands his road to a professional future is far more likely to come via free agency as a long snapper.
“I have now intentions of getting drafted,” Dellenbach said, after his Thursday workout in a sleet and snow mix came to a close. “You’d like to, but I’m not holding my breath on it. You kind of prepare for the free agent realm.”
Dellenbach understands better than most as the son of 15-year NFL veteran Jeff Dellenbach, who was drafted in the fourth round as an offensive lineman but spent most of his career as a long snapper. Interestingly enough, Dellenbach’s Stars team will be coached by Jim Bates, who was on the Dolphins staff when they selected his father out of Wisconsin.
When the game is over, Dellenbach said he will return home to South Florida and continue to work on his craft under the watch of his father, preparing for FSU’s Pro Day back in Tallahassee on March 19.
“More than anything it’s about getting out there getting exposure for yourself and proving to people that you can do the job,” Dellenbach said of the opportunity provided by an all-star invitation. “I think the phrase is, ‘Any exposure is better than no exposure.’ It’s better than not having the opportunity and sitting at home.”
While Dellenbach spent three years as FSU’s snapper on all special teams, he had only five days to get his timing down with punter/holder Ian Thompson from UTEP and kicker Casey Barth from North Carolina.
At the conclusion of Wednesday’s practice, the trio worked for an extra 30 minutes in front of the scouts, which he said went “pretty good.”
“I liked the pressure,” he said. “The only thing that wasn’t in our favor is we were trying to get a bunch of reps in. … The fact that we were pushed along with timing and everything, the only bad thing that came up is we kind of wore ourselves out from doing so much.”
That’s not to say the week-long camps leading up to Saturday’s game don’t involve some fun.
“We’ve been trading all of our stuff,” said Moody, who has collected helmet decals, shorts and t-shirts from teammates. “It’s fun, too.”
No former Seminole had more fun on Thursday than middle linebacker Vince Williams, who received – and quickly accepted – and invitation to compete in the Jan. 26 Wells Fargo Senior Bowl, which is widely considered the most prestigious of 11 college all-star games contested in the postseason.
“I had been invited by some other bowls, but I decided to just focus on my training,” said Williams, who has been working out in Orlando with one-time FSU track & field assistant coach Tom Shaw. “[The invitation] kind of shocked me. It came out of left field.”
On Sunday, Williams will report to Mobile, Ala., where he will join former Seminole teammates EJ Manuel, Dustin Hopkins and Everett Dawkins on the South squad.
“I just feel like this is a tremendous opportunity,” Williams said shortly after accepting his invitation. “God works everything out for a reason. I’m just anxious to get out there and show I belong.”
Williams’ late-season play was nothing short of outstanding, opening up eyes of talent evaluators. After leading the Seminoles in tackles in the Orange Bowl, he was selected to the ESPN.com All-Bowl team last week. His next step is carrying that late-season momentum over to the most important stage of his early, post-collegiate career.
“Everything that I do is with the mindset that this is a business,” Williams said. “This is not a game; it’s not just fun anymore. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Anytime I have a situation in my grasp, I’m going to reach for it.”
While the Senior Bowl, which will kick off at 4 p.m. (ET) and be televised by the NFL Network, may be the most prestigious of the all-star contests, it isn’t the last.
Fullback and Orange Bowl MVP Lonnie Pryor will pull the curtain on the all-star games when he competes in the Texas vs. The Nation game on Feb. 2 at Eagle Stadium in Allen, Texas. Fittingly enough, the sixth-year game bills itself as, “The Toughest Job Interview in Texas.”
Pryor will compete for the National team in a game that will kick off a 2:30 p.m. (ET) and be televised on FoxSports Southwest.