Snow renders Fewell’s all-star experience less useful

bmccormick@heraldonline.comMarch 2, 2014 

The weather and fate conspired to heap even more pressure on Jibrille Fewell’s March 4 Pro Day at Liberty University.

The former South Pointe Stallion has been preparing for the 2014 NFL Draft since the New Year, and three weeks ago competed in the College All-Star Bowl in Greenville. But unusually snowy weather robbed the prospects of significant practice time in front of the assembled NFL scouts, and rendered the experience less valuable than originally hoped.

“It could have been worthwhile, but they had that bad storm,” said Fewell. “We sat in the hotel for two days straight. Coming from training, that’s hard.”

Fewell will compete in Liberty’s Pro Day, a specialized workout organized by a prospect’s college and attended by NFL scouts, on Tuesday. He had hopes of also attending the University of Buffalo’s Pro Day a week later on March 11 but the school switched its Pro Day to the same day as Liberty’s, March 4. Fewell began his college career at Buffalo and maintained contacts with coaches at the school through the last four years. Scouts from every NFL team were expected to attend Buffalo’s workout due to the presence of linebacker Khalil Mack, a top-10 prospect. It was an unfortunate setback.

Those two random occurrences have made Fewell’s Pro Day, already vital for a relatively unknown prospect, even more important to his future hopes.

All-Star Bowling

As Phil Savage, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, told USA Today in January "All-star games provide a lasting impression of what the player looks like in full pads and uniform before everyone's attention turns toward the combine and the on-campus pro day workouts."

Much of the most valuable scouting for NFL teams during all-star games happens at the practices. But because of the snow that crippled the Upstate three weeks ago, practice for the College All-Star Bowl was limited to a single hour-long session at Clemson’s indoor facility the day prior to the game.

“The game is great, but that’s just like the prize at the end,” said Jeff Hoffman, who coached Fewell at the College All-Star Bowl and is a former NFL scout. “The scouts, everybody wants to see what they’re doing in one-on-ones, and get them in individual drills and be able to watch them.”

Though scouts might not have seen much of Fewell in action, he was matched up with several power conference players, including Ole Miss center Evan Swindall, in one-on-one workouts. That gave the Rock Hill native a personal measuring stick going forward.

“I felt nervous at first because the first guy I went up against (Swindall) was an All-SEC center. I was like, ‘man, he must be pretty good,’” said Fewell. “But I beat him, and once I beat him it just gave me confidence. It didn‘t look like I was an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) guy out there; I belonged.”

Fewell’s fellow defensive tackles included players from Michigan, Michigan State, Arizona, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota and Tennessee; he was the only FCS d-lineman. The offensive linemen included players from Utah, Michigan and Georgia Tech.

While not as well known as the Senior Bowl or the NFL Players’ Association all-star game, the College All-Star Bowl is steadily growing. Nine players from last season’s inaugural College All-Star Bowl signed NFL contracts this past season, and that’s when the game was just limited to college players that played in South Carolina or went to high school in the state.

This year’s game was open to players nationwide, though it maintained a South Carolina flavor, and was televised live by CBS Sports Network. The game included 13 players from schools that finished in the top-25, players from eight ACC and six SEC schools, as well as 54 all-conference players and 14 All-Americans.

Fewell’s business manager, Brian Brundage of Worldwide Career Management, feels that all-star games are positive for guys like Fewell because it’s a no-lose situation.

"They don’t hurt," he said in January. "If he puts in a great performance, then we’re gonna take that and run with it, and make sure everyone knows about that performance. If he’s just subpar then it’ll kind of be glossed over by the guys that did a great job."

Fewell started and made one tackle during the game. Glossed over? Maybe. Snowed over? Definitely.

One-on-ones

Still, the College All-Star Bowl wasn’t a complete wash. Unable to practice, Fewell and the other prospects milled around the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Greenville, chatting with NFL scouts and the guest speakers invited to impart some wisdom on the NFL hopefuls. Fewell spoke with six teams in Greenville - Green Bay, Kansas City, Oakland, Atlanta, Arizona and St. Louis. Scouts stationed throughout the lobby would call the prospects over for short, 5 to 10-minute meetings.

“Just talked about different stuff in life,” said Fewell. “Just basic questions; do I have any kids, am I married, how do I feel about this all-star game, how is training going, just little, basic questions. Some of them asked about game situations. We didn’t really talk X’s and O’s.”

While it was essentially speed-dating, Fewell still saw the brief meetings with the scouts as a blessing.

“How many people do you know that have just sat down and talked to an NFL team?” he asked. “I just took it in, took in all the information. Most people don’t get this opportunity.”

Fewell also got perhaps the most awkward part of the entire draft process out of the way in Greenville. Dressed in just his girdle he strolled through a Crowne Plaza ballroom in front of over 20 seated NFL scouts. They took his official height - 6-feet, 0.003 inches - and weight - 304 pounds - and eyeballed him north and south, scribbling or typing notes about the body makeup of the prospect before them. Not exactly comfortable.

“They wanted to look at your body,” Fewell said, laughing. “It felt weird. They get your official height and your official weight and then you have to walk back and forth through the room. I just took a quick glance because you don’t want to just look at them because it would just be awkward.”

The easiest part of the week was the game, held on Valentine’s Day night at Furman University’s Paladin Stadium in front of a sparse crowd. Shown live on TV, there was a lonely feel to the event. The game’s participants have largely been in isolation from family and friends while they focus fiendishly on the opportunity that’s been dangled in front of them.

So maybe the most valuable part of the week wasn’t the interviews with scouts or the brief practice session. Fewell got to see his mom, his girlfriend, his grandfather and his uncle at the game, the first time he’d seen any of them since Christmas. It was a recharging experience, one he needed before he tackles his Pro Day on March 4.

Bret McCormick •  803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T

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