Saturday, January 17, 2015

NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: 1/17/15

I decided to attend the fourth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, California on January 17th. I attended the same event back in 2013, but missed last year's game due to other plans. The game features some of the lower end NFL Draft prospects and college seniors who get a chance to play in front of NFL scouts from each and every team. Unfortunately, it didn't feature any top level NCAA talents, so I set my focus on the coaches, which included several NFL HOF'ers and Super Bowl Champs.

Little did I know when I arrived at the game that this would turn out to be one of the most surprising graphing experiences that I've ever had. After a quick stop at Frank and Sons to pick up some supplies, I met up with my friend Scotty and decided to wait for some coaches to come in. I believe that we got there too late to catch any of the coaches, but here is where the surprises started. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a few members of the US National Soccer team. While I'm not a huge soccer fan, I do watch the National team play whenever I can, and I was able to pick out some of the players. One of them was Jermaine Jones, who I had sign a baseball.

Jermaine Jones autographed baseball
Surprisingly Jones said that this wasn't the first baseball he had signed. I guess other graphers had ran into him unexpectedly before too. Either way I found it very cool to get one of my favorite soccer stars.

A few minutes later I spotted the captain of the US team, Clint Dempsey. I also had him sign a ROMLB that I had brought along.

Clint Dempsey autographed baseball
The signature on the baseball came out a bit rough, but Dempsey was extremely nice and took the time to talk to everyone. I was in total disbelief at the entire situation, but I had to remember that there was still a football game to graph.

While inside I was told that Panini had a booth set up for NFL rookies to sign autographs at. There had been rumors that Odell Beckham Jr. and Teddy Bridgewater would be at the game, since Panini had flown them out to Los Angeles for the week, however the only big name who signed was Tampa Bay running back Mike Evans. Evans had a great rookie season and I wish that I had bought a Bucs mini helmet for him to sign, but I had to settle for the 5x7 cards Panini was giving out for free.

Mike Evans autographed 5x7 card
The game was moving slowly so I decided to get up and see if I could spot any NFL players that might have been watching. While standing around looking at my phone, I spotted another unexpected guest, US goalie Hope Solo. I didn't have anything on me for Hope to sign, so I decided to get a photo with her.

At that point, I had met three star soccer players compared to one NFL rookie. I found it ironic that I had better luck with the soccer players than the football players at a football game. However I wasn't complaining, as I knocked two people off of my autograph "bucket list", so-to-speak.

After the game I decided to wait around in hopes of catching some coaches. The first person who I saw come out was UCLA Bruins QB Brett Hundley. Personally I think that Hundley will be a better pro-QB than either Jameis Winston or Marcus Marriota, but I didn't want to take a risk by dropping an NFL football on him, so I got a photo with him insetad.

Finally, I was able to cap off my day by getting HOF'ers Jackie Slater and Andre Reed to sign a card each, both of which turned out great.

Slater and Reed autographed cards
Unfortunately I did miss out on head coach Mike Holmgren, and I never saw Darrell Green or Jon Kitna, who were both supposed to be coaching, but those would have just been icing on the cake for what was otherwise a great day. I'm looking forward to another great year of graphing in 2015, and what I have in store over the next month or so will surely blow you away. Thanks for reading!

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