Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The East-West Shrine Game: Resource for the NFL
When the 2010 East-West Shrine Game teams take the field at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 23, it will be the final event in the players’ week-long “interview with the NFL.”
For the players, an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game is a chance to showcase their abilities to play in a professional-level game before representatives of all 32 NFL teams. The professional level of the event is reinforced by the presence of an NFL-affiliated coaching staff, NFL officials and rules, ESPN network television coverage and even official NFL footballs…“Just Like on Sunday.”
“The East-West Shrine Game is an interview, an audition. This is a very, very important game to NFL scouts, who have a chance to see the players up close,” said Doug Williams, director of pro personnel for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a member of the East-West Shrine Game Hall of Fame. Williams is just one of many NFL greats who played in the East-West Shrine Game; the list includes Brett Favre, Tom Brady, John Elway and 62 NFL Hall of Famers.
“Coming from a small school, the Game was a stage for me; an opportunity to show what I could do,” said Williams, who played in the 1977 East-West Shrine Game and was a first-round draft pick for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1979.
The East-West Shrine Game provides that same opportunity today. The 2008 Game’s Offensive MVP, Josh Johnson, is now a quarterback for the Buccaneers.
For the NFL, the East-West Shrine Game is a resource.
“All-star games are vital to our clubs,” said Ron Hill, vice president of football operations for the NFL. “Scouts get a week to look at and visit with the players and see how they react in a different setting.”
All 32 teams will have at least three to five scouts at the Game; several general managers and head coaches will also be on hand.
“All the GMs should be there, unless their teams are still playing,” said Hill. “I’m looking forward to being there for the practices. It’s important. If this game was on the moon, the NFL would be there.
“The quality of the players invited is very, very high. The game is very important to the NFL and to the players – it’s another chance for them to show their ability and an opportunity for our scouts and coaches to spend time with them and see what we need to see,” said Hill.
What they see is a lot of potential.
In April 2009, 90 percent of players from the 84th East-West Shrine Game – played on Jan. 17, 2009 – were either drafted or signed as free agents by NFL clubs.
The League provides significant support to the Game, including assistance assembling the coaching staff. Both the East and West teams will have one head coach and eight assistants with NFL affiliation.
Agents are aware of the benefits of the Game for their clients, as well.
“The East-West Shrine Game is unique; it’s surrounded by a cause and has a particular identity,” said Keenan Davis, president of 75 South Management Group and former NFL executive. “And, it has a premier relationship with the NFL that makes it a little larger than life. We have a player in the game – I’m ecstatic. The game is a platform for him to demonstrate he has the mental and physical abilities to excel at the next level.”
The cause behind the Game is important to everyone involved, as well.
“Every year, we hear from the players and the coaches that the highlight of the week is going to the hospital to be with the kids,” said Hill. “We’re absolutely excited that the Game supports Shriners Hospitals for Children; we’re pleased to be part of it and to help make it a success.”
Shriners Hospitals for Children is an international health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programs. Children up to age 18 with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, without financial obligation to patients or their families. The organization depends on the generosity of donors and funds raised by special events, such as the East-West Shrine Game.
For more information about the East-West Shrine Game, visit www.shrinegame.com.