Rod Malone Cactus Bowl Diary ( The Game )

<b><u>Overall experience&nbsp;</u> </b> <p> Overall the experience was a tremendous opportunity for me.&nbsp; I really learned a lot from the practices and heard a lot of interesting perspectives from the coaches and from the scouts during the week.

I want to thank the organizers of the game and especially Charlie Wilson for the opportunity to participate.  I would like to thank Coach Tayrien for his guidance during the week.  I feel that I gained a lot of confidence during the week from competing against the best talent in Division II.  That competition inspires me to keep working harder and preparing to compete against the best competition in the country.  I know that I can continue to improve and this week taught me that I have to continue to compete at the highest level every single time I hit the field.  I know that my numbers will continue to improve as I work hard in my training program.   I enjoyed meeting some of the other pro prospects during the week such as Roderick Green, Justin Kamrath and Keith Heckendorf.   Some of the friendships that I developed during the week will stay with me for a long time to come.   It was a great experience for me.  The hospitality we received in Kingsville was terrific. 


Highlights of the Week:

  • Being able to showcase my skills for the scouts.
  • Competing against the best talent in Division II.   
  • Having an opportunity to hear Charlie Casserly speak at our banquet. 
  • Getting lots of positive feedback from the NFL scouts and hearing a CFL scout tell me "We would love to have you in the CFL but I know that you will be playing on Sundays this coming season."


Disappointments of the Week:  

  • Not being able to show my best results in the workout due to the difficult testing conditions and the bad weather.
  • Finding out Friday night that there is no Hooters in Kingsville , TX .


Upcoming Plans:

I have returned to St. Paul to continue my training regimen so that I can improve my athletic numbers.  I know that I will need to have a strong performance in my pro-day workout at NDSU since I have not been invited to the Combine.  I feel that if I continue to demonstrate the numbers that I have been putting up, that I will capture that attention.  I know that given the opportunity to showcase my skills, that I will perform on par with the best running backs at the Combine.


I would like to thank Tony Pauline and TFY Draft Preview for the opportunity to write this diary.  They have asked me to continue to add weekly updates on my workouts and the feedback that I am receiving from the NFL teams between now and the draft.  I hope that this information will give you an "insiders" view of the draft and scouting process. 

The buses left for the stadium at about 4:30 p.m.  We got dressed and went through warm-ups at about 5:30 p.m.   The plan the coaches established for the running backs was for us to alternate plays.  I had hoped that they would rotate us in each series, rather than by each play since I feel that a full series would allow each back to get in some rhythm for the game. 


We woke up mid-morning.  For most of the day we were just on our own except for lunch.  We were served steak and potatoes, a nice light pre-game meal.   After lunch, we just relaxed as we prepared ourselves mentally for the game tonight.

The game:
 There seemed to be about 7000 people in the stands and it was a beautiful night for football.  They introduced each squad to the crowd and obviously the hometown players had the biggest ovations.  I was ready to show everyone what I could do on the field.   The West won the toss and we elected to receive the kickoff.  On the first 2 series our offense had a hard time moving the football.  We didn't get a first down until midway through the second quarter.  The offensive struggles, coupled with the game plan of rotating running backs, meant that each of us only had one play per series and none of us were able to establish any rhythm.  I did have one nice catch on a shovel pass that allowed me to work my way up the field but I only had 2 carries in the first half. 

At halftime the coaches basically left us to relax and made a few minors adjustments among the staff.  I only had 4 more carries in the second half and I was definitely disappointed that I did not have more opportunities to run the football.  I had several nice blocks and was able to show that I could hold up against the rush and protect the quarterback from the blitz.  I also had the opportunity to play on some of the kick coverage units but I would have liked to be involved in more of the offensive plays.  I understand that it is difficult for the coaches to try to balance out the touches for 3 running backs, but none of us are used to be in a position where we have so few carries.   In the end though, it worked out well because we were able to win the game in overtime, and as holds true at all levels of football, I am willing to sacrifice my individual accomplishments in order to help the team win football games.   I think that I made the most of the opportunities that I was given and that I was able to show some of my versatility. 

The post-game celebration was fun as the whole team ran into the end zone to celebrate the winning score.  We stayed on the field for the offensive and defensive MVP presentations and the best offensive lineman award.  After the game, I spoke with my step-father on the sidelines and then we went to the locker room and the team went out for a celebration.  Hooters, we are on our way!!


Morning-We woke at about 7:15 a.m. and headed out to practice.   The weather wasn't as cold this morning, but it was raining.   We practiced on a different field on the side of Javelina stadium instead of the regular practice field.  We ran through the same drills and plays as we had done the day before.  I did pretty well and caught a lot of passes that were thrown my way.  They have been throwing to me a lot out of the backfield so I am hopeful that I will get the chance to catch some passes in the game on Friday night.  We ran a lot of scrimmage situations so it was nice to get more touches and show my ability on full plays, rather than in limited set drills.  I hope that the scouts could see my performance because many of them stayed in their cars to avoid the rain.  Between practices I had an interview with a scout from the Bears.  He asked me questions about where I grew up, went to college and why I wanted to play professional football.   After I was done with that meeting, I ran into a scout for the Montreal Allouettes.   He told me that he heard a lot of NFL scouts saying good things about me so he expects me to be in the NFL this coming season.   He also told me that if I wanted to play in Canada, I could be a star right out of the gate because of the way that I catch the ball and because I move well in space, which is important on their larger playing fields.  I thanked the scout for his words of encouragement and told him that I will go wherever I have to go to continue playing football.

Afternoon-The afternoon practice was held on the regular practice field because it had stopped raining.  It was a light practice focusing on special teams and sideline organization during the game.  The practice didn't last that long and it seemed as though all of the scouts had cleared out because there was hardly anyone on the practice field except for the player's friends and relatives.  After the practice, the coach gave us some words of encouragement and told us that we were the best group of players he had coached in the Cactus Bowl.  That was a nice compliment.  After a closing prayer, we showered and went back to the hotel to hang out for a while.  In the evening, we went to an awards banquet and I was accompanied by my step-father, Dave Lopez, and my NDSU teammate, safety Michael Sheppard.  We had a lot of fun.  There was good food and an excellent speech by Charlie Casserly, General Manager of the Houston Texans.   He also won 3 Super Bowls as GM of the Washington Redskins.  He told us that the ability to work hard is a developed skill and that no goal is ever too high to strive for.  He also told us that glory comes not necessarily in winning, but in the struggle to win.  I thought it was a powerful speech with good take home messages.  After the banquet I hung out with my step-father and my Cactus Bowl teammate, Roderick Green, DE, Central Missouri State.  We talked about our aspirations for the NFL and our plans for training during the next few months prior to the NFL Draft.   It was already pretty late so I went back to my room to get ready for the big game tomorrow night.   Hooters will have to wait for another night.


Morning -- We woke up this morning at 7:30 and went to breakfast at the hotel. We got to the stadium just after 8:00 a.m. We got out to the practice fields. Although today was warmer than yesterday, it was still very windy. We did the same routine as yesterday and we went out to catch kickoffs. Coach Tayrien suggested that I go over and catch some punts so the scouts could see my hands on the returns. I also caught some kickoff returns. We went back to the inside hull drill where I had a few nice inside runs and was able to burst through the line during full contact. In the 7-on-7 drills we had some basic patterns and I was able to demonstrate some of my blocking against the rush. I also went out into the pattern a few times and caught several passes. Coach Tayrien reminds me of my high school coach, Coach Ray Holton, because he understands that I will get better with more reps. Again, we had just a quick lunch at the cafeteria. We ate jalapeno and steak sandwiches and spaghetti, a nice calming meal for our stomachs. After lunch we took a short break and then went back out to practice.

Afternoon -- The afternoon practice was shorter and spent mostly on special teams units. It was starting to rain so half the scouts stayed and watched practice from their cars. There were a lot fewer scouts in attendance and we were told that many of them have already left town. A couple of my West teammates razzed me about returning kickoffs in the afternoon. I went out there to show the scouts that I was willing to do whatever it takes to play in the NFL, returning kicks, covering kicks or anywhere they need me on special teams. My focus is on exhibiting my skills for the scouts and helping my team in any way I can. I even told those players "Don't hate, Congratulate!" since we are all part of the same team and we are trying to reach the same goal—winning the game Friday night and making it to the NFL!! We really didn't get as many repetitions as I would have liked in the last two days. I expected to have more opportunities to run the ball for the scouts but I realize it is difficult for a running back to be properly evaluated when we are not doing game situations and full scrimmages.

Evening -- we went to a BBQ at the J.K. Northway Coliseum and we were introduced to the public. I signed some autographs for little kids and we had a good time getting out in the community. They served us ribs, corn, baked beans and cole slaw. We got back about 9:30 and then I came to write my diary. I know that I need to get some rest tonight since tomorrow is the last of the practices at which I can make an impression on the scouts. Hooters will have to wait for another night.


Morning - I woke up at about 7:00 a.m. for our first full day of practice. It was the first full day of pads. When I got Javelina Stadium I got dressed and taped and went out to the field early to loosen up. The temperature was in the low in 40's and it was very windy. Before the first practice started I was approached by a scout from the Canadian Football League who had a questionnaire for me to complete. He told me that he thought that I was one of the top athletes in the Cactus Bowl. It is always nice to hear compliments from professional scouts especially since I would have liked to perform better in my Monday workout. We had full pads in the morning practice but did not really hit very much. The first thing we did as a team was go through stretching and warm ups and then we started with special team drills. I was put back to receive kickoffs and enjoyed my opportunity to get my hands on the ball. Since there were so many other athletes we didn't get a lot of repetitions for each player. We went through the 7-on-7 drills and the skeleton drills. I felt that I performed well in the 7-on-7 drills and also caught passes in the skeleton drills. The scouts continued to tell me to take every opportunity to catch passes and play on special teams. In the team drills, the defense clearly had the advantage since it is tougher for the offense to get in synch. There seemed like there were a lot of scouts watching and I was aware of the extra attention which made the practice seem more like a job interview than a normal practice. The coaches spent a lot of time giving us individual attention and helping each player grasp their responsibility in the team offense. After practice we had a short team meeting that focused on blocking schemes and new offensive installations. We then went to the cafeteria for lunch. We had a short 30 minute break after lunch and then went right back on the field for the afternoon practice.

Afternoon - The afternoon practice was full contact and we hit hard. Everyone was out show their intensity to the scouts and make an impression. I started feeling more comfortable with the schemes and felt that I was running the ball more fluidly. Our coaches were using differently terminology than what I had used in JC and at NDSU. I was able to break a few nice runs and got the opportunity to show my cutting ability on some inside runs. We spent a lot of time on special teams and the coach wants me to be the jumper to block the PAT's or FG's.

Evening - In the evening we went to host families for dinner. Roderick Green (DE, Central Missouri State University), Glenn Martinez (WR, Saginaw Valley State), Kevin Wolcott (WR, Tusculum) and I went to a couple in their 40's for dinner. They were both very nice and served us steak and chicken for dinner. We talked a lot about football and they host players at their home every year. It was nice to see the type of support that this game receives in the community and we have really seen that the game is a big event for the city of Kingsville. By the time we got home we were pretty tired given the two practices we had gone through and we know that tomorrow will be another long day. Hooters will have to wait for another night.


I woke up at about 7:00 a.m.  Today was the first day of workouts in front of the scouts.  We had a light walk through this morning.  One of the Seahawk scouts told me to keep catching the ball out of the backfield and to make sure that I also stayed on the special team units.  This afternoon we ran for the scouts.  It was a cold windy day and very difficult conditions for the workouts.  In addition, they fed us lunch right before they wanted us to run.  The cold wind made it hard to stay loose while we were waiting for our turns to run the 40's.  Several players injured themselves and pulled hamstrings or quads while running in these conditions.  I ran a 4.51 in tough conditions which I was comfortable with.  I know that I will run a time in the mid 4.4's after I have finished my speed training.  In the 3-cone drills they set us up to be timed on the edge of the track and finishing our runs into a fence.  All of the players were sliding out on their turns which made it very difficult to get an accurate time for any of us.   The short shuttle was run on slick grass but I was able to post a time of 4.34.  The scouts told me that they thought that time was pretty good given the conditions.  Most of my training has been indoors and I expect that my times in the agility runs will improve prior to my pro-day.  I was disappointed that we were not tested on the vertical and broad jump since those are my strong points.  I know that I can jump over 40 inches in the vertical leap and over 11 feet in my broad jump.  After the workouts I came back to my room.   I had dinner with my North Dakota State teammate, Safety, Michael Sheppard. Tonight I just relaxing and preparing myself mentally for the two-a-day workouts that start tomorrow.  I know that the practices this week will go a long way towards determining how I am perceived by the scouts.  I was disappointed to find out that I did not make the early combine invitation list, so my newest goal for this week is to prove to every scout here that I deserve to participate in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis in February.  Hooters will have to wait for another night. 


We woke up at about 8:00 a.m.  The scouts weighed me in at 212 lbs and I measured out at 6"1 ¾.  They also measured my hand size and my wing span.   There were about 35 scouts at the weigh-in and it was a slow process.  We sat around for about an hour and a half waiting for the weigh in to be completed.  During that time, I filled in questionnaires from the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.  After the weigh-in, we had our first team meeting at the stadium.  We were introduced to the coaches and met most of the players for the first time.  My position coach is Jack Tayrien, a retired coach from Kingsville.  The meeting last for about 20 minutes and then we had a walk-through for the offensive players.   The buses took us to the Kingsville Cafeteria for lunch.  We had chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.  In the afternoon, I relaxed in the hotel.  In the evening, I grabbed something to eat and I went to see Lord of the Rings.  I wanted to make sure that I got some rest and prepared myself for Monday's workouts.  Hooters will have to wait for another night.   


We left home about 7:30 a.m. to make a 9:45 flight out of Minneapolis.  I was excited about the opportunity and couldn't really sleep well last night.  We connected through Dallas and made it to Kingsville at about 3:00 p.m.  Whataburger had set up a meal to feed us upon our arrival in Corpus Christi.  As expected, we were given hamburgers and fries and the burgers were pretty good.  We are staying at the Econo Lodge and I am rooming with Romar Crenshaw, WR, Southeastern Oklahoma State.   The NFL scouts spoke to both teams to let us know the procedures for working out for the teams and also to encourage everyone to participate in the drills and the timing.  The scouts administered the TAP test and the Wonderlic Test.  I answered 23 questions on the Wonderlic.   We were also given questionnaires to fill out for various teams.   I completed questionnaires for the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks.  I also spent time talking to one of the scouts for the New York Giants.  By the time we were finished with the tests and questionnaires it was already 10:00 p.m. and we went back to our room to get some rest.  Hooters will have to wait for another night.   

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