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Where College Joes Meet the Pros

2015 Reeses Senior Bowl. Between Classes/Flickr

For 74 years, an all-star game has been played in the deep South promoting the top college football players in a senior class. Since 1950, those players have spent a week each year practicing against the best from across the country for the chance to impress NFL coaches and General Managers.

It is a must-attend event for college seniors and is by invitation only. Mobile, Alabama is the place to be. The all-star game of college football is the Senior Bowl.

According to, the 2023 game attracted 900 NFL team personnel and resulted in 1000 media members being credentialed to cover the game.

Through the years, every conference has been well represented, and that includes the Big 12. Here is a look at a few of those Big 12 standouts who accepted their invitations to play in the Senior Bowl and went on to play in the NFL.

LB Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M 1999:

Nguyen was a 5-11, 238 pounds beast in the middle of that Wrecking Crew defense of the Aggies. While small by prototypical linebacker standards, if you tried to block him, he would just smile and hit you like a freight train.

He is considered the best defensive player in Texas A&M history and one of the best defensive players of all time in the Big-12 Conference.

Nguyen holds the school record for tackles (517), starts (51), and tackles per game average (10/game). He was named the SWC Defensive Player of the Year (1995) and is a 3X All-Big 12 selection (1996-1998). In 1998, Nguyen was selected as a unanimous All-American and won the Bednarik Award.

He was selected in the 3rd round pick by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1999 NFL Draft.

RB Darren Sproles, Kansas State 2005:

Sproles rushed for almost 5,000 career yards for the Wildcats (4,979) and 45 touchdowns. In his senior year of 2004, he rushed for 1318 yards and 11 TDs for a 4-7 team that won the Big 12 title the previous year.

In the 2005 Senior Bowl, Sproles carried 6 times for 55 yards and a 24-yards touchdown run.

Sproles was drafted in the 4th round by the San Diego Chargers.

In 2011, Sproles set an NFL record with 2696 all-purpose yards in a season while playing with the New Orleans Saints.

QB Will Grier, West Virginia 2019:

Grier began his college career with the Florida Gators in 2015, then decided to transfer to the country roads of Morgantown, West Virginia and play for the Mountaineers.

In a football world far different than one that exists today, Grier “sat out” the 2016 season as per the rules set forth by the poster child of ineptitude, the NCAA.

Once under center calling the signals for WVA, Grier was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2017 after throwing for 3490 yards, 34 TDs, and 12 INTs. Then in 2018, he was named 2nd Team All-Big 12 as a result of 3864 yards passing, 37 TDs, and only 8 INTs.

Grier accepted the invitation to play in the 2019 Senior Bowl. He played the 1st quarter and completed 4 of 8 passes for 61 yards.

He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.

The Heisman Makes an Appearance in Mobile

The winner of the Heisman Trophy has played in the Senior Bowl 9 times, with Doak Walker being the first to arrive in Mobile and play in the 1950 game.

Most recently, former Oklahoma quarterback and 2017 Heisman winner Baker Mayfield also played in the game in 2018.

Senior Bowl Hall of Fame Class of 2023

On June 25th, the Senior Bowl honored its 2023 Hall of Fame Class. The Big 12 was represented in that capacity as well as former Oklahoma offensive lineman Lane Johnson got the call. The stats and facts on Johnson:

  • Voted Most Outstanding Lineman during Senior Bowl week.

  • 2nd Team All-Big 12

  • #4 overall pick by Philadelphia in 2013 NFL Draft.

  • 4X Pro Bowler

  • Super Bowl Champion

  • Set an NFL record of 26 straight games without allowing a sack.

  • Played quarterback in high school and on the practice squad for the Sooners.

  • Switched to offensive line in college to help with depth issues.

If you want to watch the best of the best (these are no average Joe’s), then make the trip to Mobile, Alabama in February 2024 and watch the “longest continuous-running all-star game”-The Senior Bowl.



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