Players get "job interview" at NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
CARSON, Calif. (AP) Mike Martz, the former Rams head coach, had a message ready for his team when they met to prepare for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
"Don't think of this as an all-star game, think of it as a job interview," Martz said.
His Nationals team made good use of the instruction, rolling over the Americans 27-7 on Saturday.
The game was played before a nearly empty StubHub Center, the 27,000-seat soccer stadium that is scheduled to be the future temporary home of the Los Angeles Chargers.
The game is a showcase for players who might be taken in the latter rounds of the NFL draft, many from smaller colleges. The NFLPA said nearly 200 scouts attended.
Several players helped their cause Saturday.
Defensive back Lorenzo Jerome from St. Francis intercepted two passes in the first half and was named the game's MVP despite playing on the losing team.
"Recognizing the play before it happens is my strength," Jerome said.
Martz had several players who impressed. Running back Taquan Mizzell (Virginia) rushed 10 times for 96 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Philip Nelson (East Carolina) completed 11 of 18 passes for 102 yards and rushed 1 yard for a TD.
"He's really an exceptional player," Martz said. "It's exciting to see what he's going to do in camp for somebody.
"I think Philip is a starter in the league. I'm certain of it. He's a good leader and has a real presence."
The Americans had a relatively easy time with former Redskins coach Jim Zorn's Nationals team. They took the opening drive and went 79 yards for a touchdown, with Nelson scoring a rushing touchdown to complete the drive.
They added a 27-yard field goal from Miles Bergner (South Dakota) to lead 10-0 at the half and then used a couple of early turnovers to take control in the third quarter.
San Jose State linebacker Isaiah Irving picked up a fumble on the first play of the second half and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown.
After Bergner added a 45-yard field goal, San Diego's Jamal Agnew intercepted the Americans on the next offensive play. That led to a 40-yard drive, with Mizzell scoring from 6 yards out.
"There are so many good players who deserve this opportunity," Martz said. "I think this game is very important. It gives these guys a chance to display they're NFL ready."
The Americans avoided a shutout when running back Teriyon Gipson (New Mexico) scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Sean Maguire with 3:06 left to play.
The players had only four practice days to prepare for the game.
The Nationals rushed 42 times for 213 yards and Martz gave much of the credit to his offensive line.
"I was pretty impressed with that first group," he said. "I think every one of them has a chance in the league."
The starters were Javarius Leamon (South Carolina State), Ethan Cooper (Indiana University of PA), Jay Guillermo (Clemson), Josh Boutte (LSU) and Jermaine Eluemunor (Texas A&M).
Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. left the game in the third quarter after injuring an ankle after scampering for 28 yards. He did not return.
"He probably could have gone back out there," Martz said. "He's OK."
Martz said they did practice Ward at wide receiver during the week.
Updated January 21, 2017