I got a chance to talk to a few of the prospects that were at the East-West Shrine Game practice. Look for more in-depth interviews in the future, but for now, I got a great bit of insight on who each of these players are as prospects and their journey's from early college to be Shrine Game invites and legitimate NFL Prospects.
Here's a few interview notes with cornerback Micah Pellerin of Hampton, receiver Thomas Mayo of California PA, tight end Evan Rodriguez of Temple, and defensive end Arnaud Nadon of Laval (in Canada).
-Hampton is known for being a school that embraces misfits and players with dealings in team violations or with the law. Micah Pellerin isn't one of them, however. A former Southern Miss Golden Eagle, he left Southern Miss for a combination of his original coach (Jeff Bower) being let go as well as the new coaching staff having 4 position coaches in two years as well as altering Pellerin's plans of being a starting cornerback, not a starting safety. So, he transferred to Hampton where he both had success on the field and NFL interest off the field (ranked 8th as a cornerback by Bletso/National). He made the outstanding point that "the MEAC has talent. Not enough people realize that." Pellerin told me that "all 32 teams, including a few GMs" were at the Hampton practices this year, and he's talked to plenty of teams at the Shrine Game. He said he'll be "running well" at the NFL combine this year. Based off my estimations, somewhere in the mid to low 4.4s is not out of the question.
-"It wasn't easy. It took a lot of time, calls by my mom, just a lot." Thomas Mayo of California PA had wanted to transfer from Concord University since his breakout sophomore season, but the school wanted none of it. He was locked in for his junior year at the school, despite having some interest from major Division I schools, including Oregon. Once his head coach left for California PA, however, that was it: Mayo was leaving. "The whole process was long and frustrating. But once my coach left, that was it.". Thomas had a fantastic season, had a solid Shrine Game practice week, and is on the wait-list for the NFL Combine.
-Being that I've been to probably 8-10 Temple games in the past two years (it's the closest major school to me), I've gotten to follow Evan Rodriguez of Temple over the last two seasons. And despite having a great year catching the ball and intriguing NFL teams as an H-Back/Tight-End, I was mostly amazed with his major progress from his junior to senior year as a blocker. "Yeah, coach [Matt] Rhule helped me a lot last year, he said it was where I needed to improve the most. I worked like hell in the off-season [to improve]." Well this week at the Shrine Game, his abilities as a developed blocker as both a tight end and fullback really impressed, and could offer value as both of NFL teams. "I'll play either, but it'd be great to be an NFL tight end." The Indianapolis Colts former tight end coach worked with the East tight ends this week, and the Colts scouts have shown interest, a perfect fit for the Colts offense. Cleveland seems to have interest as a fullback only prospect.
-Three Canadian prospects attended and worked out at the Shrine Game this week, and I got a chance to talk to Laval defensive end Arnaud Nadon and got to hear his story. Out of high school, he joined the Rice football team, winning the freshman defensive player of the year and on the 10-3 Rice football team. But once the coaching staff left, especially Yancy McKnight, who Nadon had the best relationship with, he felt a bit out of place. "The whole [Rice] culture wasn't about winning after that. I don't know why. But it wasn't someplace I wanted to be.". It took some convincing, but Rice eventually let him out his scholarship, and he decided to go to Laval, coached by a former Houston Cougars coach. He went on to win the best defensive player in Canada award two years in a row. He continued to mention that "it's a different game entirely", speaking mostly about the lack of a tight end in Canadian football. He's being looked at by NFL teams as mostly a 3-4 outside linebacker, and said he "definetly" wants to play in the NFL, even if it's the practice squad to start.