At the Hula Bowl there is a long-standing tradition of giving the two teams Hawaiian names. My team was called Aina, which means land. The other team was Kai, which means water.
Aina was coached by Miami's Larry Coker, assisted by Glen Mason, Bob Pruett, and Larry Keres. Mack Brown coached the Kai team with R.C. Slocum, Jack Harbaugh, and Brian Kelly assisting. Aina's quarterbacks were Brad Banks of Iowa and Jason Johnson of the University of Arizona. Kai's quarterbacks were Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech and Neil Rose from Harvard.
On Tuesday and Wednesday we practiced in full pads, then on Thursday and Friday we were in helmets. It was hard work. They tried to keep things as simple as possible because few of us had played together before, but there still was a lot to learn.
It wasn't all work and no play, however. There were some parties to go to and some time to relax at the hotel.
Overall, I was pleased with my performance in the practices. That was a very important time for those of us who are not in programs with games that are televised every week. A game like the Hula Bowl is a good time to get noticed.
We met a number of pro scouts and they had plenty of time to see what we could do. In a situation like that, you have to give it your all. It's incredibly important to make a good impression. I heard later that I was considered one of the top three players in those practices, which meant a lot to me.
Game day was a lot of fun. There was a good crowd and everyone enjoyed themselves. Our team started out pretty slowly. The Kai team was strong in passing and their defense was right on. We on Aina couldn't seem to get it together for quite a while. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, we were behind by a score of 27-3. Nobody wanted to look bad, so we never gave up and continued to play hard as we could.
Luckily, some good offensive plays, two onside kicks, and some pass interceptions turned things around for us. Aina won 27-23 thanks to a field goal in the last minute of the game.
My brother Brian was in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, which was held on February 2, the day after the Hula Bowl. He came to Maui and stood on the sidelines for my game, then I went to his game the next day. We'd been in Hawaii before when I came with him to the Pro Bowl, but this is the first time that we both had games. It's a great experience to go through something like that together.
Our Mom was in San Diego with Brian for the Super Bowl, so for the Hula Bowl and the Pro Bowl she was at home watching us on television. I was glad that Chip Smith of Competitive Edge Sports in Atlanta where Brian and I train was able to be at the games, though. It's fun to be able to share something like this with people who care about you.
Now I'm back in Atlanta and training hard once again. It's time to fine-tune the skills that the pro scouts are looking for. I'll have to wait and see if I'll be at the NFL Combine the end of February. The invitations should be coming out pretty soon. If that doesn't work out, I have a few practices scheduled for March so the pro scouts can see me again before the draft. I'm giving this my best shot and am hoping for the best.
Beth Gorr contributed to this piece.