2013 Senior Bowl, a game I’ll always remember

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 31, 2013

The sound of my alarm clock came rather quickly Saturday morning.

After a long night of reporting on local basketball action, I went to bed only a couple hours after I had returned home.

It usually takes me a while to get wound down some nights, but Friday night was an exciting one because I knew the next day I would be in Mobile for the 2013 Senior Bowl.

At around 7:15 a.m., I got out of bed and trudged to the shower really tired hoping it’d wake me up.

I had to get up early because game-day press credentials needed to be picked up within a certain time period at a certain location. The location was the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel — the official Senior Bowl headquarters.

Leaving Andalusia at around 7:45, I made great timing to the Port City with about an hour to pick up my press pass.

Upon arrival to the second floor registration desk, all I saw were football players who were a lot bigger than me.

“These guys are huge,” I remember thinking.

I checked in and decided to hang around because I had some time before kick off, which was slated for 3 p.m.

Sitting in the second floor registration area, I enjoyed watching youngsters and adults clambering for autographs of the country’s top senior football players.

Then, my stomach growled. I was hungry.

After a late breakfast at the Whistle Stop, I thought it would be best to find a parking spot near Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

About 20 minutes later or so, I found one in a fairly nice area.

With my press pass around my neck, I was granted access to the stadium with ease.

I dropped my bag off in the press box and after loading up camera and note pad, wandered down to the field to get some good shots of players warming up.

The first player I noticed was Andalusia native Nico Johnson. Snap-snap.

Then, Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson came into view. Snap-snap.

Pretty soon, South squad quarterbacks — Wilson, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Florida State’s E.J. Manuel — were warming up with wide receivers and tight ends. Snap-snap.

Later on, Nico participated in warmups with defense, and the entire South squad retreated for the locker room.

The introduction of each team member was a big act.

Every player from both teams was introduced by school. Of course, the players representing Alabama were last.

Believe me, the crowd let them know how much they appreciated them.

The game kicked off and South strutted to a 14-0 lead in the first half. The North squad came back to push the game to 14-10 in the second half, before South went back up 21-10.

The North scored a late touchdown to bring the final score to 21-16 after the two-point conversion failed.

As I was walking the sideline and taking pictures of Nico and others in action, I couldn’t help but appreciate the speed at which these athletes play.

These guys were quick.

And just like that, the game was over. It only lasted about three hours.

At the end of the game, I went with the rest of the press corps to wait for player interviews.

While waiting, I was looking around and listening to the interviews when I saw Howie Long, the former NFL Oakland Raiders’ defensive end and now Fox NFL analyst.

What a great way to end the day, to get to see a former NFL great. I couldn’t wait to tell my parents, who were waiting for me to get back to Fairhope for dinner that night.

The drive back was OK, despite the Mardi Gras parades I had to drive around. My, there were some neighborhoods I drove through to which I had never seen.

Finally, I got back to Fairhope safe and sound, and also exhausted.

I ate dinner with the folks and was satisfied after a long, but great day at the Senior Bowl.