What College Football All-Star Game Directors look for when inviting NFL Draft prospects to All-Star Games

Justin VanFulpen at the Texas vs. the Nation All-Star game in Allen, Texas

By Justin VanFulpen

First and for most College Football All-Star games are a business, they need sponsors to help take care of the expenses to bring in the NFL Draft prospects.  These sponsors want their brands to be associated with the NFL without having to pay the top dollars to be an official sponsor of the NFL or a competitor of their already has that category locked up with the NFL.  So to get true NFL prospects is a must to be able to help keep sponsors coming back year after year.  That is a major selling point to sponsors is how many draft pick you had or how many players you have in the NFL that played in your game.

When the spring grades come out from BLETSO and National not only are the agents and financial advisors try to get their hands on them but so are the people that run the all-star games.  All-star game directors of player personal want to see if the players NFL spring grade matches up to what they think of the NFL prospect.

When I was in that position in charge of personal we built our boards like we were an NFL team.  We wanted to make sure we could get the best prospect in our game as possible.  Any game not named the Senior Bowl knows it has to more work on elevation because since the Senior Bowl is far and away the number one College Football All-Star game.  If a player is going to play in an all-star game and get an invite from the Senior Bowl he is accepting that invite.

Here are things that Player Personal Directors look for when inviting prospect to College Football All-Star Games:

1. Is he a true NFL prospect: Does he have the ability to play on Sundays and is not just a good college football player?  What are scouts saying about him, will they want to see more of him in a college football all-star game setting?  What grade do you have on the prospect ? As a director can you defend the selection to NFL scouts if they ask.

2. Does he have NFL measurables: If there is a tie between two or more prospect for a game roster spot, directors will go for the bigger, longer player.

3. Where the player from: Since the game is a business it doesn’t hurt to have a few local or regional prospects to help with media coverage and ticket sales.

4. What agents are recruiting the prospect: What kind of relationship does the agent have with the games personal director? Is the agent truly trying to help the prospect or just help him if he signing the prospect? Is the agent using one all-star game invite to help the prospect get a “better” invite?

5. Is the college coach calling for the prospect: Will his college head coach or position coach pick up the phone or send you an email recommending him to the game? We would always have his happen and it did factor into our decision making process.

At the end of the day the College Football All-Star game process is a big part in which a prospect can raise his draft stock so as a director of player personal you want to make sure you get the best possible prospects into your game.

NFL Draft: “All-Star Games”

By Justin VanFulpen

One of the biggest things in the pre-draft process is the all-star games.  I have had the opportunity to be involved with 6 all-star games.  Five Texas vs. the Nation games and as well as the Player All-Star Classic in 2012, mainly working with the player personnel but also having other duties.

College football all-star games are about giving players an opportunity to show their skills in front of NFL scouts. In this environment where player come from all levels of competition the NFL scouts are evaluating not only the one-on-one and team practices but how fast can a player pick the offense or defense that is being installed since everything is done within that game week.

Small school prospects that get into one of the major all-star games have a great ability to help themselves in the draft process because it shows scouts that the level of competition is not too high for them since that will be one of the biggest questions mark for that prospect to answer.

The question always comes up from coaches, players, parents, agents, etc. – How does a player get invited to play in a game?   I had an opportunity to be in charge of the personnel and like all the other people in the all-star game business we are looking for the best player that will have an opportunity to get drafted.  Since the life blood of an all-star game is sponsorship and most sponsors are looking to get close to NFL players or be able to say that they are involved with NFL prospects without having to spend the top dollars to be an official NFL sponsor.

But what I always tell people asking that question that communication is key with the personnel directors of the game or their staff.  Sometimes players will miss out on an opportunity to play in an all-star game because they don’t get back with an all-star game to let them know they are interested in playing in the game because they are waiting to get an invite to a “bigger” game.

This was evident this past year where a handful of players didn’t responded back to their invites to the NFLPA All-Star game and the game moved on an invited other players to take their spot.  Luckily the College Gridiron Showcase hadn’t finished their roster and was able to get these players in their game which helped out the talent in that game.

Since the Senior Bowl is by the far the number one all-star game they have the lead when it comes to what prospects go where.  If a player gets invited to the Senior Bowl most of the time they are pulling out of whatever all-star game they are in and going to that game.  Since that is the case and invites are kept close to the vest it causes all the other all-star games to continuously change their roster.

All-Star games start sending out invites in mid to late October and each game does it different as far as inviting players.  Some email the player directly other will send the invite to the school and have the coaches give it to the players.  My advice to players is accept the invite when you get it and get it back to the game if then you get invited to a “bigger” game,  just communicate with the game you had already accepted and just let them know in a timely manner so they can invite someone else.

2016 College Football All-Star Games:

Senior Bowl – January 30, 2016
East-West Shrine Game – January 23, 2016
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl – Date TBD
Medal of Honor Bowl – January 9, 2016
College Gridiron Showcase – Date TBD