In early February, most players invited to participate in the East-West Shrine Game this weekend in St. Petersburg, FL will be training for their invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, one of the recently announced regional Scouting Combines, or their individual Pro Days.?
Steve Erzinger of the Army Black Knights will find out where he posts for his tour of duty following graduation in late May.
Erzinger, the kind of tough-nosed hybrid linebacker/defensive back that NFL teams will surely scour in order to defend the latest wave of match up problems like Aaron Hernandez, Dennis Pitta, Ed Dickson, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski, has a different mission from the players that he will play with this weekend.? He found a higher calling.
However, that hasn't deterred him from working on the perfection of his football technique.? He spent the last week sweating on Shorecrest Preparatory Academy's football field, absorbing coaching points, and preparing to play in the last game of his college football career.
I caught up with Steve after practice on Thursday.
Q:?How do you think you did this week?? How do you feel about your own performance in these practices? A:?I think I did well.? It's fun getting out here and playing with all these guys, and comparing notes- especially coming from a smaller program, and you can come out and play with all the big guys, that was cool.
Q:?Was there any one area you wanted to improve on in your game this week? A:?Just understanding professional defenses and stuff like that.? It's different from what we play at Army, so just getting used to it.
Q:?Could you give me an example of some of the coaching points some of the coaches would give you on certain techniques and certain situations? A:?A lot of, how you low you play, are you shooting your hands when you need to, things like that.? You just want to make sure you're as aggressive as possible but really just getting your position, not making things harder than they need to be.
Q:?Given that a lot of the players in this setting are working toward the NFL, and your mission is obviously different from theirs, describe your motivation for improving your technique in this setting? A:?You just want to be the best that you can when you come out here.? Especially with all these guys, you don't want to let them down.? They're all here to look good and impress the scouts, and the least I can do is make sure I'm doing my job so they've got the opportunity to do that.
Q:?What does it mean to you to be invited by the Shriners down here to be able to take part in this All Star setting, getting in this one last game? A:?It's awesome.? The Shriners have done a really good job of hosting us.? They've really just been so nice, given us a bunch of things, been really hospitable.? It's been fun, obviously an honor to get down here.
The 87th East-West Shrine Game is take place on Saturday, January 21st with a 4:00pm kick-off from the Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida. The game will be televised on NFL Network.