Last year was my first year attending the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Pasadena, California, and I said I would always come back for this game, because the level of talent was tremendous. That was the case this year as well, as both rosters were stacked with excellent pro prospects from across the country.
What was cool about last year was that former Tennessee Titans and St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams coach Jeff Fisher was coaching one of the teams. And then, later that week, he landed the head coaching job for the upstart/restart Michigan Panthers of the USFL.
He returned this year to coach the U.S. team, and I was able to catch up with him after practice to ask former player and current Tennessee State coach Eddie George about seeing him coaching against the other side, the USFL. His thoughts on the first season, and what we can expect from his Michigan Panthers in 2023.
Before we delve into the standouts from both teams throughout practice week, here’s all the game information for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
how to see
date: Saturday, January 28 | time: 6 p.m. ET
Location: Rose Bowl Stadium (Pasadena, California)
TV: NFL Network | Stream: Fubo TV (try for free,
QB Lindsey Scott Jr..: 5-10 215, The word Avatar
The 2022 Walter Payton Award winner (Best Offensive Player in FCS) was impressive throwing the football all week in Pasadena. The determination and accuracy shown in the middle of the field was truly standout. Scott has complete mastery of the passing game, as well as the types of throws required in a given game.
I was able to get his thoughts about the week after practice.
WR Malik Heath:6-2 216, Ole Miss
Heath played like a man among boys all week, and let it be known that he was playing well. You love that type of trust in a receiver, both verbally and physically, and he backed up his point with his play. Last year it was Breylon Sanders of Ole Miss who starred in the NFLPA Bowl; This year it was Heath.
WR michelle tinsley: 5-11 207, Penn State
Tinsley’s had a great week. We always use the phrase “plays larger than its size”; Well, that aptly describes Tinsley’s week. It was surprising to see the measure of the way he performed. You would have thought he was 6-5, 225 and how big he played. He also displayed considerable athleticism in terms of his footwork in and around the goal line.
WR CJ Johnson:6-1 225, East Carolina
Johnson started the week strong before going down with a hamstring injury. He is a very physical receiver at both the release and catch points. His functional strength is exactly where you want it to be, and he is someone who always finds voids within the defensive zone.
official language sidi so:6-4 329, Eastern Michigan
Bo is also a highly publicized CFL prospect, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him taken in one of the top two rounds of their draft. He had an outstanding performance here in Pasadena. I was mostly impressed by his footwork and overall athleticism.
deli Scott Matlock: 6-4 308, Boise State
Matlock was virtually unblocked all week. In my opinion, he was the best defensive lineman on the US squad. On the second day of OL/DL 1-on-1s, his list of moves was on display, receiving consistent praise from both players and scouts alike.
LB Michael Ayers:6-1 224, Ashland
Ayers has a unique background, having played several positions before settling at linebacker. However, it may be those experiences that helped him not only get to the NFLPA Bowl, but to excel throughout the week. His pass defense was most impressive, and he explained why in our conversation on Thursday.
LB marte mapu:6-2 220, Sacramento State
Mapu was another small college linebacker standout this week. Again, it was the coverage capability that stood out. Mapu showed that he can cover backs and tight ends well. Football tendencies were also prevalent in the coverage during the 7-on-7 period.
cb Keenan Isaac:6-2 188, Alabama State
Isaac’s length, coupled with his pressing skills, made him standout almost immediately this week, especially during 1-on-1s. Wing span and ball awareness helped keep the passing window closed for business during 7-on-7. I thought she showed a lot of polish this week.
teammates roses are coming
There’s nothing like going on a road trip with your buddies, and that’s what we saw in the US team this week, as two sets of teams really stood out with their efforts.
rb chris smith:5-9 195, Louisiana
For Smith, it’s about his ability to threaten a returner, core special teamer, complimentary back or receiving downfield. He enthusiastically demonstrated his versatility to scouts this week, and spoke at length about it when I met with him after practice.
Te johnny lumpkin:6-5 273, Louisiana
Lumpkin was physically imposing there on the field, fitting the defenders on both ends of the offense. He really surprised a lot of people with how well he moved as a route runner at 273 pounds. But it goes way beyond that for her, and she talked about why in our post-practice interview.
official language Harris Lachance: 6-6 304, B.U.
LaChance was arguably the most patient offensive lineman during the 1-on-1 drill. He didn’t allow any pressure, nor was he fooled by the various tricks thrown by the defensive linemen. Her arms and legs were together, and I thought she played the piano well while working between stunts and twists.
cb Caleb Hayes: 5-11 196, B.U.
I really liked how Hayes attacked the ball at catch point all week. His coverage was impeccable, and if the ball did come his way, it was either a pass breakup, an incomplete pass, or, at worst, a very rough reception by the wide receiver. Hayes was excellent 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and in team periods.
Other US Team Standouts
- RB Sarodoric Thompson, Texas Tech
- LB Durrell Johnson, Liberty
- OL Brandon Kiper, Oregon State
- DL Randy Charlton, Mississippi State
- WR Xavier Gipson, Stephen F Austin
- WR Jason Brownlee, Southern Miss
- OL Tashon Manning, Kentucky
- CB DJ Ivey, Miami
American Team WR/DB 1-on-1s
US Team OL/DL 1-on-1s
QB Malik Cunningham:6-0 200, Louisville
Cunningham himself had a strong week in Pasadena. So much so, he earned an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. He fumed during a 7-on-7 drill during Wednesday’s practice. When I spoke with the former Louisville cardinal, I asked him why he was being mostly underestimated. He gave a really good answer.
QB Todd Santo: 5-11 227, James Madison
It’s easy to root for a guy like Centeio, because he always walks around with a smile on his face. It was great to see them parlay the NFLPA Bowl Invitational a week into the Tropical Bowl. I asked him about back-to-back strong weeks and what he brings to the table as a QB prospect in this class.
rb owen wright: 5-9 220, Monmouth
The All-Star Game setting is great for a player like Wright, who played reserve for Monmouth. He got a chance to show his all-round game, especially as a pass catcher. If you’re looking for an under-the-radar back to keep an eye on in this draft, this is the right one.
WR Taylor Grimes: 5-10 188, Avatar word
There was one practice where it looked like Grimes had a Super Mario star, as he was running at a different pace than the cornerback. Possessing quickness, top-notch acceleration and the ability to run the route, he was a problem all week.
WR jaray jenkins:6-1 206, LSU
Jenkins has legitimate wheat baskets on hand. He’s both big enough to snatch the ball out of the air or away from a defender, and heavy enough to make him a poor choice by a defensive back, as he threw to DBs more than once this week. Again, I was shocked that he only measured in at 6-1,206, as he played much bigger than that (in a good way).
WR kealan harris: 5-9 179, Oklahoma Baptist
All anyone could talk about all week was “Oklahoma Baptist WR.” When you are garnering that kind of buzz from your play, then you know you are doing great things. Harris was a hard receiver to cover throughout practice and earned himself some money from his performance this week.
official language joey fisher: 6-4 292, Shepherd
One of the major questions Fischer had to answer this week was whether or not he can get the jump on the competition after dominating Shepherd. Those questions were quickly dispelled after the first practice, where his strength and technique were on par with his FBS counterparts.
deli durel nachami:6-4 258, Maryland
Whether it was with power or speed, Nachami found his way into opposing backfields. I thought he did a really good job of stacking the positive days on top of each other, which is what you want to do in an All-Star Game setting.
LB Micah Baskerville:6-0 221, LSU
I thought Baskerville was awesome all week. He was incredible in coverage, picking off many passes during both team and 7-on-7 periods. He is a fluid athlete when working through his zone and does a great job of anticipating where the QB is going with the ball, positioning himself to make plays.
database Isaiah Bolden:6-2 201, Jackson State
Bolden was the star defender this week. He showed that he could be a very good outside corner at the NFL level. We already knew his safety background at Jackson State, but playing on the perimeter this week was his chance to showcase his coverage skills. Plus, his ability as a return specialist makes him even more attractive to pro scouts. I talked with him earlier in the week about his ability to multitask.
cb steven jones:5-9 185, Appalachian State
Jones was excellent in 1-on-1, both in drills and during full team periods. He doesn’t panic when the ball is in the air, maintains good position, and does a great job of playing with the receiver’s hands.
cb Kidron Smith:6-2 203, Kentucky
Smith had a quietly strong week on the perimeter. He was not loud or inconsiderate; In fact, he was the exact opposite: calm and composed, demonstrating superb coverage and recovery skills.
database Anthony Johnson Jr.:6-0 208, Iowa State
It’s always fun when you watch practice and see a player who always has the ball in his hands — who doesn’t play offensively. That was Johnson all week. Whether it was driving on the ball and making interceptions, catching one off a tipped pass or flying in run support, the former Cyclone was all over the field this week.
database darius gaines:6-1 197, Western Colorado
You have to give it to Gaines, as the former Mountaineer standout played almost exclusively at cornerback – a position he didn’t play in college – but stayed committed, didn’t get discouraged and started to figure things out as the weeks went by. gave. But went on. He’s a safety at the professional level, but getting experience as an outside corner this week helped him show not only that he’s got potential development there, but also that he’s a very skilled player.
Other National Team Standouts
- QB Adrian Martinez, Kansas State
- RB Ronnie Brown, Shepherd
- RB Emari Demercado, TCU
- Te Michael Ezeike, UCLA
- OL Jovon Gwynn, South Carolina
- DL Malik Hamm, Lafayette
- CB Rich Speed, Michigan State
- S Jalen Green, Mississippi
Next Stop: East West Shrine Bowl