Coaching legends return for all-star game
Bobby Bowden coached 165 players at Florida State who were drafted by NFL teams.
Two years after retiring from college football, Bowden has a chance to help some more players land spots on pro football rosters.
Bowden is back on the sideline – even if just for a week – as the coach of the North squad in the Battle of Florida, the inaugural all-star football game for college seniors who were born in the state. Former University of Miami and Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger will coach the South team.
“A lot of the kids playing in it normally wouldn’t be drafted,” Bowden said. “It gives them a chance to play another game and get exposure to the pros and maybe an opportunity to play pro football.”
The Battle of Florida is offering an opportunity that in previous years many players simply didn’t have. The game won’t feature the level of players that the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game will have.
But the week leading up to the game will feature similar drills and workouts in front of NFL scouts, and the rosters are loaded with players who are likely to be taken in the mid-to-late rounds of the NFL Draft in April.
About 100 players from Florida State, Florida, Miami, Central Florida, South Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida A&M, Bethune Cookman and Florida-born prospects from other programs outside the state have committed to play in the game. The showcase will be played at FAU’s new stadium in Boca Raton on Saturday, Jan. 21 (broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports Florida and FOX College Sports).
Bowden's North squad will include a handful of players he once coached at FSU – wide receiver Bert Reed, running backs Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones, tight end Ja’Baris Little and defensive back Terrance Parks.
Schnellenberger’s South squad will include Miami players like offensive lineman Joel Figueroa and defensive lineman Adewale Ojomo.
“This is another thing to ensure that football in Florida will continue to grow and develop,” Schnellenberger said. “I sure am thankful that this thing came to pass. … This can be a great attraction.”
Former South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, a Tampa native, has also committed to participate in the game. Other quarterbacks include East Carolina’s Dominique Davis, Jacksonville’s Josh McGregor and FIU’s Wes Carroll.
Bowden and Schnellenberger feel that scouts from NFL, Canadian Football League and Arena Football League teams will be evaluating players on both rosters as they look for diamonds in the rough.
“They’ll come there to watch these kids,” Bowden said. “They know that there may be a sleeper in there.”
One of those sleepers could be Thomas, who had 2,113 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns at FSU. He is 12th on the Seminoles’ all-time rushing list but missed the bowl game due to academic issues. So the opportunity to play in the Battle of Florida is a welcome opportunity before the pro scouts.
“Stand for something or fall for anything,” Thomas said. “I hope to put on a show.”