TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Senior Bowl has been very good to Florida State in recent years.
Quarterbacks Christian Ponder (2011) and EJ Manuel (2013) and lineman Tre’ Jackson (2015) all used MVP performances in their respective Senior Bowls to impress scouts and boost their position in the NFL Draft.
And, for several other former Seminoles, the Senior Bowl has served as a springboard into successful professional careers.
The latest FSU standouts to participate, cornerback Marquez White and fullback Freddie Stevenson, hope that trend continues Saturday when North meets South at the 2017 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
White and Stevenson are roommates this week as they showcase their skills in front of the Cleveland Browns’ coaching staff. The Browns are in charge of the South team, while the Chicago Bears’ staff is coaching the North.
“The environment is crazy down here,” said White, a two-year starter at FSU. “I’m just trying to soak it all in and leave here better than when I came in. I came here to boost my stock. There’s really no secret about that.”
The same holds true for Stevenson, who, despite playing a supporting role for much of his FSU career, said he hopes to show coaches and scouts that he has what it takes to be a featured back at the next level.
“I know I can play running back and play it a high level in the league, if asked to,” Stevenson said. “A lot of people know what I can do as a blocker. I just want to go out there and showcase to people that I can run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield and be versatile in many different (offensive) systems.”
The Senior Bowl is something of a week-long job interview for the dozens of players with next-level dreams.
In addition to a week of practices leading up to the game, players also attend position-group meetings and interview with teams from around the league. Those question-and-answer sessions can be just as important as what takes place on the field.
“You get a feel for how they do it in the NFL, how it is,” White said. “The expectations, how serious it is.”
White is practicing under the watch of DeWayne Walker, a 30-year coaching veteran who joined the Browns’ staff earlier this month.
And he’s practicing alongside some of the top senior defensive backs in the country — Miami’s Corn Elder, LSU’s Tre’Davious White and San Diego State’s Damontae Kazee among them.
As a result, White said that measuring up with the competition has made for a challenging but productive week.
“It definitely makes me raise my game,” he said.
Stevenson, meanwhile, is working with Browns running backs coach Kirby Wilson.
Despite serving primarily as a lead blocker for FSU star Dalvin Cook during his FSU career – albeit with some impressive flashes as a receiver along the way – Stevenson said he’s looking forward to expanding his focus.
“I’m not nervous. I’ve been ready for this,” he said. “I’m just ready to showcase what I’m able to do and catch some people off-guard.”
After a few days in Mobile, both White and Stevenson said that they felt better prepared for the rigors of NFL-style practices thanks to the professional atmosphere at Florida State.
White said that much of what he has been asked to do, both on the field and in meetings, is “like second nature” after four years at FSU.
And Stevenson echoed that sentiment, noting that having a solid foundation allows both he and White to perform without fear of confusion or unnecessary mistakes.
“I believe Florida State has prepared us for situations like this,” he said. “The way we practice, it’s perfect for this. So, we can just go out and play, have fun.”