By: Doug Killough

February 11 2016

The 2016 Reese’s Senior Bowl was held in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday, January 30. The game, practices and player interviews throughout the week provided an opportunity for some of college football’s outstanding seniors to showcase their talent, skills and readiness for the National Football League and the upcoming NFL Draft. Scouts and coaches from all 32 NFL teams set up camp in the historic Alabama city to watch, evaluate and interview players.

I had the opportunity to travel to this year’s Reese’s Senior Bowl, interview a few players and attend a school visit where three players from the South team were part of a mock press conference in which children asked the questions. One thing I hoped to see was the overlap in community impact and player impact from the college football bowl games. I caught up with Eric Murray from the University of Minnesota, Carl Nassib from Penn State, Dak Prescott from Mississippi State and Jay Lee from Baylor University to ask about their bowl experience.

A common theme among players in bowl games is the chance to relax, get away from the routine game week and spend time with teammates. “One thing off the field that meant a lot to me was going to the Lions game with my teammates,” Murray, who competed in the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, Michigan, said. “And just spending the last time enjoying football leisurely and casually and just relishing in my last moments with [my teammates]. I really enjoyed that.”

Bowl games often provide players with a chance to travel somewhere they may not otherwise have the opportunity to visit or with a vacation from the typical weather they experience while at school. Nassib, along with his fellow Nittany Lions, competed in the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, which isn’t the cooler weather he usually sees during bowl season in State College, Pennsylvania. “It was a great opportunity to go out with my team and have some fun,” Nassib said. “Overall, I had a great experience; it was great being on the beach.”

Not only do players and coaches benefit from bowl games, but host communities also reap the benefits. “It’s a great time, and a great, great environment, great game and atmosphere for all the community and the school,” Prescott, who competed in the Belk Bowl, said.

Players have the chance to give back in some capacity to the host community at local schools and hospitals similar to the school and hospital visits during Reese’s Senior Bowl Week. “We just try to put a smile on those kids’ faces and let them know that someone there is wanting their presence as well,” Lee, who played in the Russell Athletic Bowl, said.

The bowl season provides many opportunities for everyone involved. From players traveling for the first time to hospitalized children getting visits from players, coaches and cheerleaders, which some players would argue, means more to them than it does the children. Each bowl experience creates memories that will last players’ entire lives, even when their careers and a chance at a future in the NFL is looming heavily over them. These memories are what make each bowl bigger than the game.