Giving Illinois football players a platform to impress NFL coaches is something that I love to see.
The Illini have had plenty of talented players come out of the program and head to the NFL. Some of these players, like Devon Witherspoon, didn’t need a secondary platform to show what they can do on the football field. Others do need that all-star game, like the Reese’s Senior Bowl, to really impress the scouts.
This platform has helped a multitude of Illinois football players get to the next level via the draft process or through free agency. Now that platform is getting a bit of an upgrade.
On Monday morning, Jim Nagy, the Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, posted on social media some format changes to the all-star game coming up. Here are some of the things they are implementing this year, directly from Nagy’s post.
"Every Senior Bowl player will meet with every NFL team for a minimum of 10 minutes (Mon & Thurs).Similar to Combine format, every team will get 64 players upon request for an additional 15 minutes (Tues & Wed), meaning that teams will leave Mobile with 25 minutes of interview time with roughly half roster, which is significantly more time than at any all-star event to date.Quarterbacks will be removed from the 10-minute scheduled interviews (Mon & Thurs) in favor of new format where they will be on 40-minute rotations with pods made up of 5-6 teams (2 reps per club). Each QB pod will have game film & whiteboards available. Under this new setup, if teams also include QBs in their 15-minute requested interviews, they will get 55 minutes with QB prospects in Mobile.All specialists will be setup on 30-minute group Zoom calls with special teams coaches from all 32 NFL clubs. Logic here is that ST coaches are the ones essentially drafting these players in April so we want to connect our players with them as early as possible in pre-draft process. Specialists will also be available for the 15-minute requested interviews.All interviews will conclude by no later than 9:30 pm on Monday & Thursday and 9 pm on Tuesday & Wednesday so players have ample rest/recovery time each night."
The Reese’s Senior Bowl has been a valuable platform for Illinois football players
As mentioned earlier, Illinois has had plenty of players head to the NFL in recent years. The Reese’s Senior Bowl has been an aid to some of these player’s journeys to the next level as well.
In the 2023 Senior Bowl, Illinois had three players invited and participate. Sydney Brown, Chase Brown, and Jartavious Martin were all in the game. Martin ended up being picked in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Washington Commanders, Sydney went in the third round to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Chase went in the fifth round to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The year before, Kerby Joseph was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. He ended up getting picked in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
This all-star game has been a valuable platform for the Illini. It gives these players and others the ability to get in front of coaches and scouts from all 32 NFL teams. I love this new format because it enables more quality time between the two parties.
Illinois currently only has 13 seniors on the team. I could see quarterback John Paddock, linebacker Tarique Barnes, and wide receiver Casey Washington all potentially getting an invite. Hopefully, we can see another member of the Illini at the all-star game in a few months.