Last weekend, I spent a few days up the road from Austin in Fort Worth checking out my friend Craig Redd’s College Gridiron Showcase, which he co-founded with Jose Jefferson. I’ve had a handful of meals and beers with Craig in New Jersey, oftentimes talking about this college all star showcase, so it was exciting to see the week play out in person.
After each day we would meet up to grab a drink and talk about the day’s events. Craig, being a former agent himself, would talk to me about my process I’m going through in determining how I’d fit in the reality of that industry, while I’d talk to Craig about their entire vision for the showcase and what makes it successful. It was a great learning experience that I am lucky to have had.
He excitedly told me that when he asked a scout from a successful NFC organization what he thought about the game and what he could improve, the scout said that he told this bigger all star game that CGS is doing everything that this other game should be doing. The process is sound from the scouts perspective, which was a welcome thing for Craig to hear.
That’s not to say that the other game is doing anything wrong because I don’t know, but Craig and Jose have worked with their team to knock out a lot of the fluff that surrounds college all star games, the main piece being the game. He says it is unnecessary as scouts oftentimes don’t even stick around for the game, having seen everything they needed to see in the practice portion. Preparing for the game takes time away from actual player performance as they have to take time out of practice to install an offense and defense, they also go through special teams periods.
The practices revolve around the players doing the normal warm ups of routes on air for receivers, cornerbacks work through backpedal drills that warm them up while illustrating hip dexterity and fluidity, and linemen move through their steps and get offs. They then come together with their counterparts on the other side of the ball for one-on-ones, which gives coaches and scouts what they want to see: a player’s ability to win against the man in front of him.
After one-on-ones they come together for a natural 7-on-7 period, then it goes into team. They hold scrimmages at the end of each group’s week with players playing off of cue cards, rather than going through the full installation.
Prospects are separated into three groups. Over the weekend was the small school group named the Marshals, then started the Desperados who were the second tier, while the Wranglers were the first tier of prospects. Players from the small school group and Desperados could move their way up to the Wranglers group at the request of scouts. Sixteen players from the Marshals group were moved up after the small school days on the weekend.
Three of the players that moved their way up to the Desperados group from the Marshals group who impressed me as well were wide receivers Daylon Person from Langton and JoJo Gause from IUP, plus running back Jaquan Hemphill from Hardin Simmons.
Players from the Wranglers who impressed me were wide receivers as well as being a former receiver leads to my eyes always being curious as to what they’re doing.
Sean Riley Jr. from Syracuse moves in a way that immediately tells you he’s likely the most fluid athlete on the field from the moment you see him warming up.
RJ Turner, a graduate student from Texas Tech after a four-year career at Louisiana-Monroe, performed exactly as I’d expect one of the better receivers in the Big 12 to perform. He’s 6’2″, 215-pounds and feels like he plays a little bigger in an Anquan Bolden style.
Dontavion “Lucky” Jackson from Western Kentucky had the kind of shake that I expected out of him at the line of scrimmage, which led to quarterbacks having big windows to throw through.
Safety Sam Franklin Jr. from Temple seemed to be a terrific athlete with the build to contribute at the next level.
The Regulators are the special teamers, who had their own separate showcase on Wednesday between scrimmages for the Desperados and Marshalls. This kept scouts at the field, watching special teamers, and giving them a platform that other games don’t provide.
They also have kicking coach Mike McCabe there to facilitate that whole Regulators program, which is a very positive relationship for the CGS and McCabe.
Maybe even more importantly than the on field showcase is that the event clearly has an atmosphere that’s conducive to players and scouts meeting. While position groups at the biggest all star game in the sport, the Senior Bowl, are scheduled to meet as a group with the scouts having limited time to speak with each individual, the CGS gives scouts as much time as they need. It’s a much more laid back environment.
Again, this isn’t to bash other games, but to illuminate the benefits the game provides for players. It’s especially important because the CGS is targeting the later round prospects, the players that scouts want to see in one-on-one scenarios and want to meet with to learn more about their psyche.
Craig has big goals for the game in Fort Worth. He understands the value the game provides in terms of hotel rooms, economic activity, and attention. Goals are to continue to grow it in this growing city inside the DFW metroplex, which is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the US with over 7.5 million citizens, while providing the city of Fort Worth something to call their own on the heels of their Armed Forces Bowl as the new year kicks off every January.
The CGS team is committed to continuing to make adjustments to the game to better serve the players who attend it. I had a great time learning about the thoughts that go into such an event and I look forward to attending next year.
Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.
You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here. You can subscribe on YouTube here.