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Former UCF Knights aim to impress pro scouts at Hula Bowl – Boston Herald


About 100 college football players, including five from UCF, will be taking the field inside FBC Mortgage Stadium for the 77th annual Hula Bowl on Saturday (CBS Sports Network, noon).

It’s the second straight year the college all-star game, which was traditionally held at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii, will be played in Orlando.

The exhibition game offers a chance for players from all over the country to practice and play in front of more than 100 scouts from the NFL and the Canadian Football League, among other professional leagues.

“That’s the thing I love about this game and these players,” said Brian Billick, who is coaching Team KAI. “These are players that need this game. Some might creep their way into the second day or maybe the third day of the draft.

“A lot of them will be undrafted free agents but all of them are going to be in a pro camp. They need this game, and they practice that way with energy. It’s a fun week.”

Billick — who spent nine seasons (1999-2007) as the head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, including their 2000 season capped by a Super Bowl championship — will coach Team KAI while Mike Smith, who served as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons from ‘08-14, will guide Team AINA.

Smith highlighted the challenge the players have faced in practicing for a game while essentially auditioning for pro scouts.

“It’s very important for the players to have an opportunity to meet the scouts and have interviews,” he said. “It’s a balance between the scouting world and the football world.”

Former UCF running back Isaiah Bowser said he’s talked with at least nine teams this week while preparing for the game.

“It’s been great talking to the teams and telling them a little bit about myself and my skills on and off the field,” Bowser said.

“Getting out here the first day and moving around, [it was] getting used to a new offense,” he added. “But by [Thursday] we’re all playing fast, making explosive plays and enjoying ourselves.”

Bowser is joined by offensive lineman Sam Jackson, tight end Kemore Gamble, defensive tackle Austin Camden and defensive tackle Anthony Montalvo as former Knights on Team AINA.

Former UCF long snapper Alex Ward and defensive back Divaad Wilson also participated in practice but aren’t expected to suit up for the game.

Jackson confirmed he’s talked with 12 teams this week and has focused on relaying his versatility as an offensive lineman. At UCF, he saw action at all four tackle and guard positions.

“Being able to play all of those positions is going to pay dividends for teams,” Jackson said. “Just showing them that I’m able to still do that is definitely my biggest goal when I came out here.”

Jackson and the rest of the UCF group will be playing on a familiar field but with unfamiliar teammates.

Team AINA includes Kansas State quarterback Adrian Martinez, Florida State offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons and Marshall running back Khalan Laborn among others.

Team KAI features ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers, Ohio State safety Tanner McCalister and Tulane wide receiver Duece Watts among others.

While there are two teams and a trophy to win, all of the players have one goal: to impress the NFL and pro scouts.

“They want to go out and play hard,” Smith said. “This is their resume that they’re putting on tape. It’s not like you write up a resume.

“These scouts, not only from the NFL but the other leagues playing at the professional level, they’re going to be looking at this tape because it’s a chance for them to see how they respond to different situations,” he added.

For Bowser, it’s one last chance to play at UCF.

“I’m looking forward to making some explosive plays, hopefully getting a win with the guys I’ve practiced with and having fun one more time in the Bounce House,” he said.

Email Jason Beede at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @therealBeede.



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