When I arrived in Mobile, Ala., on Sunday morning, I gathered my luggage and rental car keys and headed outside only to walk into a sauna-like atmosphere with the sun blazing and temperature about 74 degrees. For my 16th Senior Bowl week, I had never experienced this.
On my last day in Mobile, I sat in the stands waiting for practice to start, and again it was a warm day of about 73 degrees. Generally it’s sunny. I’ve sat through practice sessions with heavy wind and rain, a thunder and lightning storm that delayed the continuation of an afternoon practice session. I’ve seen the weather go from mid 50s and partially cloudy to a temperature drop into the low 30s within a matter of minutes, sending NFL personnel running to local stores to purchase hats and gloves.
This year’s trip to the Senior Bowl was very different for me. Now that I’m on the other side of the fence from NFL personnel and truly a media member, my approach changed slightly. Of course, I still did my evaluating process of the players. Watching practice sessions, taking notes via my hand-held recorder so my eyes never left the field, recording non-stop for two hours a practice session, including hang times of the punters, get off for the kickers and timing long snappers as well.
What I experienced this year was much different than the past. I attended media night, where I spoke and interviewed several players from both rosters (North and South). It is hard to talk with coaches, not because you can’t find them at practice but they don’t want to be bothered because they are trying to watch Senior Bowl prospects practice.
During the day I was an evaluator, in the evenings I put on my fedora and for a few nights I was on a stakeout at a couple major hotels, working to speak to coaches and personnel men from all 32 teams, on coaching hires, possible free-agent interest around the league and much more.
I had a few late nights gathering information. I spent a few hundred dollars buying dinner and drinks, passed out a box of cigars to many of my league sources. Spending time with those folks I respect, the same people that call me with information and the same individuals I call for information, I call them sources and they are also good friends.
When you come to Mobile for Senior Bowl week, there is one eating establishment that is a must visit landmark located in the historical downtown district since 1938: Wintzells Oyster House. As you know, and maybe you don’t, I’m from Seattle, Wash. and growing up eating fresh seafood was the norm. At Wintzells, I feel right at home, but this restaurant has that southern flavor and it’s good. You can get oysters nude, stewed or fried, shrimp and grits, catfish, gator tail, jerk chicken chili nachos, sensational gumbo and much more.
While enjoying a meal or two, you’re entertained by the pictures and framed words of wisdom that cover every inch of the walls. There are a lot of photos of J. Oliver Wintzell, founder and his family members. Here is an example of the words of wisdom: “It’s nice to be important – but it’s just as important to be nice.” “Over work your ears if you want, but give your tongue a vacation.”
Wednesday meal of the day: shrimp/oyster po-boy sandwich, Creole baked crawfish pie, fried okra and a large sweet tea.
Changes for Saturday’s game: Marquis Maze, Alabama (hamstring) is out forthe South;
replaced by A.J. Jenkins of Illinois. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska is out for the North (hip flexor). He’s been replaced by Josh Norman of Coastal Carolina.