MOBILE — Senior Bowl practices kicked off Tuesday afternoon at Hancock Whitney Stadium where some of the top college football players in the country will make a final push to increase their NFL …
MOBILE — Senior Bowl practices kicked off Tuesday afternoon at Hancock Whitney Stadium where some of the top college football players in the country will make a final push to increase their NFL Draft stock.
Among those looking to catch the eye of NFL scouts up close were South Alabama’s Jalen Wayne and Troy’s Carlton Martial who both played their high school football at nearby Spanish Fort and McGill-Toolen, respectively.
Wayne racked up 816 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns to help the Jaguars register their first double-digit win season and is now one of two from South Alabama playing in the Senior Bowl for only the second time in program history.
Martial made his big senior splash when he broke the FBS record for career tackles with 578 which surpassed Luke Kuechly’s 532 with Boston College, a record that had stood since 2011.
Wayne catches full-circle moment
For Wayne, playing in his college’s home stadium, it was a little bit of a full-circle moment when he ran into one of his former Toro coaches after Tuesday’s practice.
“I just saw my receivers coach Brendt Bedsole, he works at Auburn now and it was pretty cool to see him out here,” Wayne said. “It’s just crazy the journey from Spanish Fort to here but it’s humbling, I’m grateful to be here and I’m going to take advantage of every shot I get.”
He hasn’t been the only one making waves in the college ranks and mentioned staying in touch with many of his former Toro teammates.
“A lot of them are doing big things, a lot of them are at SEC schools, other big-time schools so we’re all out here making noise and I’m just the next guy in line to go to the league,” Wayne said. “We’re trying to make it a tradition.”
“That’s my homegirl,” Martial said of Baldwin County’s Bryant
One of Martial’s quasi-assistant coaches his senior season was McKenzie Bryant, a Baldwin County High School alumna who served as the Trojans’ first female student assistant who was tasked with coaching up Martial and the inside linebackers.
“A new feel,” Martial said of what Bryant brings to the program. “Being around her, she’s always energetic, she’s kind of in-your-face with it too so I love it.”
Those preparations have helped him return to his old stomping grounds where he always relished the opportunity to play at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
“It feels good just getting back here. Even when we played South Alabama, just playing in front of my family and friends (was awesome),” Martial said. “I’m going to see family here that I haven’t seen in years.”
Martial, Wayne quickly making friends on team
Wayne said that while some of his fellow receivers took some time to get used to the field conditions, he knew they’d soon be taking advantage of the speed.
“I was talking with some of the receivers and they were saying the turf is a little different than what they’re used to, they’re kind of used to grass in the SEC, but I was telling them as soon as you catch it the right way you’re going to feel good and they got used to it pretty fast,” Wayne said.
Similarly, Martial had known some of his teammates but quickly started making new friends on the National Team.
“It’s really been exciting, we’re out here to compete and that’s what it’s really all about, competing and having fun,” Martial said. “Some guys I’m training in Pensacola with, they’re here. Met some new guys, DJ (Johnson) from Oregon, number 2.”
The teams will have two more practice days before having to put it together for the real deal Saturday and Wayne said the time conditioning in the city will only help the teams.
“First day was a little tough, getting a little acclimated to the weather again,” Wayne said. “Mobile ain’t too easy to run around in but I’m ready to go, Saturday will get here and we’ll have fun.”
“We’re just setting a new standard and trying to put next year’s team in the right direction, on the right trajectory to keep changing the standard of the program,” Wayne said. “We’re tired of being at the bottom of the list, it’s time to be on the top.”