The National team defeated the American team 31-17 on Saturday, Jan. 18, to win the 2014 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.
Final Score: National Team 31 American Team 17 #NFLPABowl— NFLPA Bowl Game (@NFLPABowl) January 19, 2014
National coach Dick Vermeil praised the depth of his team after the game, per the game's official Vine account:
The final score was merely of secondary concern to the players' individual performances. Much like the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, the Collegiate Bowl is a great chance for many college stars to impress NFL scouts ahead of the scouting combine. These are players on the fringe of the draft, so a good showing here could mean jumping up a round or two, or getting selected in general.
Hawaii's Sean Schroeder was 13-of-17 for 138 yards and a touchdown to be the game's leading passer. He did his best to keep the Americans in the game and, as a result, may have piqued the interest of a couple teams.
A lot of eyes were on South Carolina's Connor Shaw. The Gamecocks quarterback was one of the biggest names in the game, and he's a major wild card in the draft.
Shaw completed five of his six pass attempts for 70 yards to lead the National team. That lone incompletion was an interception, which matched his INT total for the 2013 season, per Gene Sapakoff of The Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C.:
Connor Shaw throws an interception in NFLPA All-Star Game - matching the total # of interceptions he threw all season (24 TD passes)— Gene Sapakoff (@Sapakoff) January 19, 2014
Sapakoff added that Shaw likely found he won't be able to rely on his feet like he did in college once he hits the NFL:
Connor Shaw learning a lot in this NFLPA All-Star Game, like that he won't be able to run out of trouble much in the NFL.— Gene Sapakoff (@Sapakoff) January 19, 2014
Somebody who could've played his way into the draft was Stanford's Anthony Wilkerson. The Cardinal running back finished with 65 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.
Wilkerson played second fiddle to Tyler Gaffney at Stanford, but he had the stage all to himself on Saturday night. Although he didn't get too many touches, when he had the ball in his hand, big things happened.
One of the players whose best work didn't show up on the stat sheet was LSU's J.C. Copeland. The Tigers fullback did carry the ball twice for two touchdowns, but he was making the most noise for his blocks helping to spring Wilkerson and the other National running backs.
Both Bill Polian and Todd McShay, who were calling the game for ESPN, couldn't stop raving about Copeland's ability to get in front of his runner and take the linebacker out of the play.
He took home MVP honors:
Here's what Copeland had to say after the game, per the game's Vine account:
Fullbacks generally aren't valued too much come draft day. With his stellar performance, though, Copeland likely played his way onto a lot of teams' draft boards.
Bleacher Report's Dan Hope thinks Copeland can play in the NFL as long as he gets a little more in shape:
In seriousness, Copeland is a fun player to watch. If he can cut some weight and maintain his power/strength, might be a role for him in NFL— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) January 19, 2014
On the defensive side of the ball, Southern Miss' Khyri Thornton was the name on the announcers' lips. Time and again, McShay especially was praising Thornton's ability. The Golden Eagle was getting in the backfield and stuffing the run game at the line of scrimmage.
The performance shouldn't come as a huge surprise, as the ESPN draft expert listed the defensive tackle as the best prospect in the game, per the Golden Eagles' equipment team:
Thornton could be another one of those players who ended up getting into the draft on the back of his strong performance.
The Collegiate Bowl was a great showcase for those on the outside looking in, and there's a good chance more than a few of the participants will be playing on Sunday next year.