Senior Bowl Notes: Mind over matter
It’s obvious that the NFL Network has made Tim Tebow the focal point of their Senior Bowl coverage. After emerging as college football’s God-like figure for the last four years, the cameras continue to follow the Florida quarterback’s every move, in hopes of capturing a repeat of biblical miracles. After two days, he’s yet to walk upon (or part) the Gulf of Mexico, but there is a miracle sighting in Mobile that even wows the Gator of gospel.
Stafon Johnson’s return to the field is miraculous in itself. Just a little more than three months ago, the ability to play football was the least of his concerns. Greater importance was properly placed on whether he would be able to breathe without assistance, and live without dependency.
Call it the power of prayer or mind over matter, but during the darkest days of his young life, Johnson was impelled by the will to achieve, refusing to succumb to beliefs that goals had become unattainable in the shadow of adversity.
He exemplified his “no surrender” attitude in refusing a procedure that would have raised his raspy voice from a whisper. Instead, he chose to have his windpipe widened, so he could begin training in pursuit of dream. The first leg of that dream is the Senior Bowl, where he continues to live by the words “Fight On”.
No Man is a mountain
Jeff Byers suffered more than his share of injuries at USC, though none were nearly as tragic as the one suffered by Stafon Johnson. After six years of breaks and bruises, this Trojan workhorse now finds himself vying for draft position. It never helps to be overshadowed by the talents of teammates, but after two days of Senior Bowl practice sessions, Byers has already proved that no man is a mountain.
That mountain would be Terrence Cody, who was given the moniker “Mount Cody” at Alabama. The 370 pounds defensive tackle is easily a first round projection, and Byers may have used his performance against him to inch closer to that destination. During line drills, it was Byers, and not Cody, that proved to be the immovable object. He defended each wave of the Crimson Tide, gaining the interest of future employers on hand.
The first round of the draft may be a reach, because he lacks a set position. He’s been working mostly as a Senior Bowl center, one of the many spots filled at USC. If an NFL franchise is in hope of filling that need, Byers has potential to be their future gem.
In the eyes of one general manager, Taylor Mays has already received one strike. That negative followed “Mays being Mays”. While the big safety assisted a cornerback in coverage, he delivered one of his signature blows to Citadel wide receiver Andre Roberts. The GM taking offense, who remains unnamed, felt the blow was unnecessary during routine drills, and especially those without full pads.
Mays’ physical specimen has captured the awe of those who have never seen him up close and personal. On the field, he appears as a man amongst boys. There is no denying his ability, but scouts would like proof of coverage skills and the willingness to make plays on the ball before projecting him to the upper portion of the draft, where he would have been chosen a year ago.