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Behind the scenes at Texas vs. The Nation
I'm sure all you fine readers have by now perused all the tremendous articles we've posted about the Texas vs. The Nation college all-star game and if not, go ahead and do so now, I'll wait ............... OK, are you back?
To put together these stories, we've had in-depth access to the events, so I wanted to pull back the curtain and give you details surrounding the event that weren't quite fit for print ... that's fine, the web is cooler anyway.
Wanted to go out to the first day of practices, so fellow reporter Matt Welch and I went to the Courtyard by Marriot in Allen Tuesday to pick up our credentials.
The directions were simple enough ... go to the information desk.
Walked through the hotel, which was plastered with signs for Texas vs. The Nation, and found the information desk ... but no one was there. We instead went into the adjacent office and asked for help. The first woman we talked to had no idea what event we were referencing, this despite the fact she made that statement two feet away from a giant TvN poster.
OK lady, fair enough.
Knocked on the door of a nearby boardroom and found the TvN war room. There, a gentleman namechecked one of our ad reps, so we were on the right track.
While waiting for the credentials, which we eventually found out were at the stadium, this gentleman and I looked at the itinerary. I saw there was a social Wednesday night and asked what all that entailed; the joking response I got was, "I don't know, maybe it's like a Sadie Hawkins dance?" Considering all the players and coach, as well as the majority of the NFL scouts, were men - I wanted to see that event.
Alas, it never happened.
On the upside, I saw an Ohio player rocking an Idaho Famous Potato Bowl backpack.
Had another pseudo player run-in before getting to the stadium as we helped get the equipment in for Oklahoma defensive tackle Stacy McGee. Now, I'm not saying we saved his potential NFL career ... but our efforts certainly didn't help.
McGee, who also went to high school in Oklahoma and thus has a questionable tie to Team Texas, was one of many players in attendance from major colleges.
"It was really fun walking into our locker room and seeing helmets from Penn St., Michigan and Oklahoma," said Jeff Fleener, Allen offensive coordinator. "It is so cool to see that in a high school setting ... in our high school."
The wealth of players brought out a litany of scouts to Eagle Stadium.
Only a handful were on the sidelines, including some from the Dallas Cowboys, with a few more in the press box and the majority in the stands. If that wasn't enough encouragement for the players to go hard, there was an assistant who said on more than one occasion, "it's a great day for football, help yourself to some."
The players, which included locals Uzoma Nwachukwu (Texas A&M, Allen); Devin Smith (Wisconsin, Coppell); Lanear Sampson (Baylor, North Mesquite); Skye Dawson (TCU, Mesquite native) and Evan Epstein (Oklahoma State, McKinney native), didn't appear to need motivation as they would run through drills and then look into the stands to see if scouts were watching after one of their particularly good ... or particularly bad ... plays.
They might have also been motivated by former Dallas Cowboy Bill Bates, who is the Team Texas head coach.
I mentioned to Bates that he was at a pretty high intensity level on Day 1 of practice.
"I just love this game so much," he responded. "Sometimes I still get the feeling of wanting to get back out there myself."
When I reminded Bates the Cowboys defensive scheme switch might have created a hole he could fill, he laughed and responded, "I could probably give them one good play ... but that would be about it."
In watching Bates' intensity during practice, I was scared for Matt when he dropped his roster and it blew to the edge of the sidelines ... I can't even imagine what Bates would have said if Matt dared run on that field during practice.
Bates wasn't the only person I got a chance to chat with after practice as I also talked to Nwachukwu, who I covered when he was at Allen. I said I wasn't sure if he remember me, but ... then he cut me off and said, "yeah man, I remember you ... from back in the day."
EZ and I chatted about a variety of things ... which you of course already knew from reading my feature story ... including the new stadium, which wasn't around when he played for the Eagles.
Indeed that was the talk of many players and coaches during Tuesday's practice.
"Throughout the nation this is the best high school facility anyone could possibly imagine," Bates said. "It rivals many college facilities."
And Saturday it will transform into a college facility as some of the nation's best seniors attempt to up their stock with pro football personnel as the 2013 NFL Draft (April 25-27) draws closer.