CARSON, Calif. – The numbers alone show that Georgia Southern cornerback Laron Scott was highly productive during his college career.
He was third in the FCS in kick returns, averaging 30.59 yards per return. He had three interceptions and an absurd 18 pass break ups as a senior.
Scott stood out throughout the week of practice for the NFLPA Bowl and was effective during the game Saturday, not allowing a touchdown and delivering a quiet but disruptive showing.
But Scott’s best selling point is he showcased his best attributes in one game against the best team in college football.
Against Alabama last November, Scott did it all. He returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown and also had five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and one pass break up while frustrating Crimson Tide receiver Marquis Maze, who finished with three receptions for 44 yards.
The Eagles make Bryant-Denny Stadium nervous in the 45-21 loss, a final score inflated by a passing touchdown from starting Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron to tight end Brad Smelley with 44 seconds left in the game.
The experience of being with his teammates and pushing Alabama to the limits would last forever, Scott said, but the tape of that game could help him carve out a career in the NFL, simply because of the number of elite draft prospects Alabama had on its roster.
“Being able to guard Maze, holding him down and running back a kickoff against the national champions, you got to be able to hang your hat on that,” Scott said.
What Scott hopes scouts and executives see in that game is “just my quickness and speed.
“I’m not a real tall guy, but I definitely plan on making up with it with speed and knowing the game, being able to cover,” he said. “Just being a smart player out there.”
There was a strong sense of nostalgia for the first football game in Los Angeles since Christmas Eve 1994 with even a cursory link to the NFL.
Former Los Angeles Raiders coach Tom Flores was the head coach of the American team, while wide receiver Isaac Bruce, drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, served as an assistant coach for the National team.
A large group of Rams fans even broke into frequent chants of “Bring them back, bring them back.”
“A lot of those fans were going to Rams games when I was an assistant in 1969,” National team head coach Dick Vermeil said. “We sure need a team here in LA.”
For Flores, it marked his first game back on the sidelines as a coach since an all-star game in San Diego in the early 1990’s.
Flores said he reminded him why he loves coaching football and if he were younger, he would be right back in the game. But at age 74, even enthusiasm can’t make up for energy.
“Feels good to sit down. I haven’t stood that long for a long time,” he joked.
Both coaches were impressed with how quickly the players came together into cohesive teams.
“It’s a very quick week,” Flores said. “They all reported on Monday. We only had four days to prepare. They absorb it like sponges.”
Following A Priest
Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey received an excellent lesson during the week that being drafted doesn’t mean everything.
The undersized but stout Bailey was coached by Priest Holmes, a three-time All-Pro, 2002 offensive player of the year and Super Bowl champion even after being passed over in the draft.
“I never knew that he was an undrafted free agent,” Bailey said of Holmes. “That really opened my eyes and gave me a little bit of confidence.”
Bailey was the offensive standout, with a game-high 50 yards rushing and a touchdown to cap off a strong week.
“I think I helped myself a lot,” he said. “I came out here and did something I never did before, I played special teams. I didn’t get to play that much in college because of personnel reasons. I showed my ability to catch the ball.”
Vermeil even compared Bailey to former Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions running back Wilbert Montgomery, who excelled while weighing less than 200 pounds.
“For a young man like him, it has to be at the right place at the right time, where there is a need and he fits,” Vermeil said. “I hope he gets his chance. Fine young man.”
In Need Of Stability
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris was the biggest name to participate in the game, but was a quiet six of eight for 46 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Vermeil was high of Harris’ physical tools, but said he needs more time to develop after dealing with an ever-rotating cast of coaches in college.
“There’s definitely talent there,” Vermeil said. “He has to get in a stable program where he has one coach for a whole season, then another season and another season and grow because he had too many coaches in college. Too many different things said to him, too many variations of techniques and reads and concentrations and focus points.
“He certainly has the arm. He can throw it through a carwash and not get the ball wet.”