Dick Vermeil gets the Gatorade treatment after leading his squad to victory in the first NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
On any given Sunday, Dick Vermeil could be in the Napa Valley working at his winery, or near his home in Chester County, Penn., restoring some his father’s old race cars.
This week, he happens to be in Carson, working with college football players who may not be ripe enough to become high-round NFL draft picks, but have the mechanics to have some kind of future in the game as a professional.
The 76-year-old former UCLA head coach who parlayed a victory over No. 1 Ohio State in the 1976 Rose Bowl into 15 years of NFL head coaching with Philadelphia, St. Louis and Kansas City will coach the one of the two rosters of seniors who are NFL-draft eligible in Saturday’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl at the Home Depot Center. It’s the second year that the league’s players association has sponsored the game, which may not yet attract the A-listers who gravitate to the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine exhibitions, but tries to offer more in education than just physical evaluation.
Some of the players invited are projected to be fifth-to-seventh round draft selections. Vermeil, who coached the winning squad last season, coaches the National roster that includes quarterback Dayne Crist, the former Notre Dame High quarterback who went to play for Charlie Weis at both the University of Notre Dame and Kansas, as well as UCLA safety Andrew Abbott, linebacker Damien Holmes and defensive tackle Donovan Carter. Those three Bruins will have a chance to tackle former teammate, tailback David Allen, who is on the American roster, coached by Herm Edwards.
Some of the practice sessions are televised on ESPNU (Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30-to-3:30 p.m.) prior to Saturday’s game (3 p.m., ESPN2).
Prior to collecting his coaching staff together for the first time, Vermeil talked about how this all works into a win-win situation for all involved:
QUESTION: What would benefit someone playing in this game versus some of the other college all-star games?
ANSWER: The NFLPA’s whole approach to this is a little different. Yes, it is to give the players an opportunity to display their wares to the NFL, but it’s also to give them an introductory course on how to live your life as an NFL player, what problems to expect, how to solve them. The NFLPA is very serious about this orientation approach.