Florida State’s Waisome, prospects at Medal of Honor Bowl
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) Florida State cornerback Nick Waisome wishes he had another, much bigger game, to prepare for this week. Still, he’s excited for the chance he’ll have at the Medal of Honor Bowl on Saturday.
Waisome is among dozens of NFL prospects from power five conference teams at the second-year game, played at Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium. Others competing this week are Boston College quarterback Tyler Murphy, Rutgers passer Gary Nova and Auburn tight end C.J. Uzomah.
Waisome and the Seminoles were blown out by Oregon on New Year’s Day at the Rose Bowl, ending a 29-game winning streak that included the 2013 national championship. But the backup said the opportunity to meet with NFL teams this week eased the disappointment of falling in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
”It got our mind off of it, this is the chance to show our skills and transition to that next level,” Waisome said.
Moving to the NFL is the goal of just about all 102 players who’ll take the field as the American and National teams. Proceeds from the game benefit the Medal of Honor Museum on the USS Yorktown Aircraft carrier in Charleston Harbor and the Wounded Warriors Project among other organizations. Organizers have a five-year agreement with Citadel to keep the game here.
The game still lags behind traditional college all-star showcases such as the East-West Shrine Classic and the Senior Bowl. But Medal of Honor player personnel director Cal McCombs said his game is making its mark on NFL teams and colleges eager to give worthy players a chance at the pros.
There were representatives from every NFL team attending practices, including at least five general managers, most notably Green Bay’s Ted Thompson and San Francisco’s Trent Baalke.
McCombs said he got calls in the past month from Notre Dame and South Carolina seeking spots for players. A big reason, he said, was that of the 97 players in last year’s inaugural game, 76 wound up in NFL camps last summer.
McCombs hopes for an even greater percentage this year, looking to have at least 10 Medal of Honor players taken in next spring’s NFL draft – and have colleges calling earlier to see about roster spots for their players.
”Next year, they’ll know enough that it’s not a fly-by-the-night deal,” McCombs said.
Boston College’s Murphy sees the week as the perfect place to boost his pro aspirations. He met with several teams, including the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers.
”At the end of the day, we all want to reach our goals and there’s a bunch of different ways to get there,” he said.
The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Murphy will lead the American team, which also features Georgia Tech running back Synjyn Days and Mississippi State cornerback Jamerson Love.
Waisome, Nova and Uzomah are on the National team that has Texas A&M receiver Malcome Kennedy.
The game also includes military vets turned college football players such as Texas long snapper Nate Boyer and Clemson receiver Daniel Rodriguez. Boyer is a 34-year-old who was part of the U.S. Army Special Forces in Afghanistan and earned a Bronze Star.
The 27-year-old Rodriguez earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star serving the Army in Afghanistan. Both won the Armed Forces Merit Award – Boyer in 2012 and Rodriguez this past season – given by the Football Writers Association of America.
The bulk of players, though, are looking to the game to begin pro football careers.
”Finally, the amateurism status is over,” said Kennedy, who led Texas A&M with 53 catches for 611 yards. ”It’s been a learning process for me. I know in the end I’m going to come out on top because I’m going to work hard.”