All that’s missing from the Senior Bowl is, well, the top members of the junior class, 40 of whom chose to declare for the NFL Draft this month.
A year ago, that group could have included Virginia Tech wide receiver David Clowney.
Wednesday morning, Clowney drew notice in his work for the North team with some acrobatic receptions in one-on-one work, catching “every ball that came my way,” he said after the practice. But had he decided differently when he investigated the early-entry possibilities a year earlier, he might already be in his first full NFL offseason.
The NFL offers such players a chance for feedback before they make their decision, consulting with a panel of scouts to determine where each player might be drafted were they to declare early eligibility. That word was promising for Clowney, but he still opted to stay as Tech broke in a new quarterback in Sean Glennon.
“They had me late second, early third (round),” Clowney recalled. “In the preseason, they had me (on the) borderline between the first and second rounds.
“I knew I had the speed and athletic ability to *turn pro early), but I wanted to be mentally ready. I was well-prepared for the draft, but I wanted to also get my degree.”
His choice underscores a curious dichotomy of the pre-draft process, particularly at the Senior Bowl, where 50 players work together as teammates for a week. While they go through the process of preparing for their final game in collegiate headgear, they bond as teammates, but foremost in many minds is the impression each can make as individuals upon the scouts and coaches that encircle the practice field.
From here, the process is strictly individual — 40-yard dashes, short shuttles, squats, bench presses and so on. Being a good teammate is part of the equation each team takes into account, but when Saturday’s game is complete, it becomes all about the individual until draft weekend arrives.
Clowney made his choice, and with his studies complete and the draft approaching, he has no regrets about his extra year. But after playing the dutiful role of the good teammate throughout his four years with the Hokies, now he — and the hundreds of other draft prospects — must show their wares as individuals before ensconcing themselves in a team environment once again after they learn their NFL destinations.