Senior Bowl: Early arrivals

<b>Mobile, Al-</b> Every year, the Senior Bowl convenes the top talent throughout the ranks of college football. Each player is striving to live out the dream, getting drafted by an NFL team. Some will elevate their stock playing in Mobile while others will leave wondering what could have been.

Early arrivals marked the first day. Arriving Saturday seemed to be the latest fashion to get a jump on every other team and to settle in before the welcome reception on Sunday afternoon.

Day one of the weeklong event is an informal meet and greet session among players and scouts. Registration takes up part of the day and the early presence of scouts showing up promises to make this a Senior Bowl to remember.

While waiting for a connecting flight in Houston, we caught up with a player and a scout to gauge their excitement - before Senior Bowl practices begin.

It is no surprise that in Houston scouts from the Texans were waiting in droves for the flight to Mobile. The Texans are "taking this week with an open mind," according to one scout with the team. While they do have key areas they would like to improve, they wouldn't go on record with a specific position.

On the player front, Zach Tuiasosopo, a fullback out of the University of Washington, says he isn't nervous heading into this week of action.

"Treat it just like I have everything else football," he said. "I broke my leg early in the season. This is my chance to shine."

Senior Bowl week and the Scouting Combines in Indianapolis represent the few chances he will have left. He says he has a clean bill of health entering this week after missing most of the year. It was the third game of the year that Tuiasosopo went down and he lost that momentum heading into the offseason.

One area he hopes to really shine in is the interview process. He understands to interview well will put him ahead of the curve. While he looks forward to this week of action, he admits that the Combines will be a different beast when they are pulling and prodding and testing his leg.

Sunday's informal approach is meant to set the young players mind at ease heading into the week long of practice. In the safe haven that is the Riverview Plaza Hotel, players can come and go as they please and aren't confined to the practice field just yet.

They do have some hurdles to clear before moving on through the week. They are required to check-in, take a mandatory physical and sign out before moving on to take individual team questionnaires.

The Texans questionnaire takes "three-to-four minutes tops" according to one scout and Sunday morning they were positioning themselves to get that work done quickly by the players.

The questionnaires will set the tone for the rest of the week. As scouts and coaches evaluate the answers, they will move forward with face-to-face interviews. The importance of character and personality traits has become just as important as their play on the field.

In another interesting development, there is reportedly new practice limitations setup this week. A Senior Bowl official said there would be restrictions placed on who is allowed on the field and that may cause angst among scouts who want an up close and personal view of the events. Expect a number of them to complain and that could force the issue.


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