Waldman shares a variety of memories about his annual trip to Mobile and what’s in store for this week’s event.
Everything about Mobile, Alabama was new during my first few years as an attendee of the Senior Bowl. I wanted to soak up as much knowledge as I could from the field, the stands, the media nights, and the writers.
Even as a journalist—and I have spoken with my share of individuals with meaningful achievements—I experienced moments where I could feel my inner fan moments that went as far back and deep as early childhood. Your abstract understanding of what I’m saying isn’t enough to connect with it.
I remember how I had to consciously put my hands to my lips to make sure my jaw hadn’t flown open when Joe Greene walked by me in the lobby of the convention center. It didn’t matter that he had the ginger walk of an older man and his beard was overrun with gray, the first thing that came to my mind was Greene timing a snap count and leaping over the Dolphins line in a playoff game to stop a play in the backfield.
Whether he knows it or not, Jadeveon Clowney wants to be Mean Joe Greene.
I remember how nutty it felt that I was playing it cool talking about the merits of DeMarco Murray to the two guys flanking me along the fence of the Ladd-Peebles practice field. Sam Gash was a terrific fullback and Earnest Byner was my favorite Cleveland Brown. After 45 minutes of watching together and being shocked that they were the first to engage me in conversation, I waited until at the end of practice and decided it would be the one time I’d let myself have a true fan moment. He laughed as I shared with him my immense appreciation for his game when I was a kid.
There were also funny stories that are even richer with hindsight.
I remember Russell Wilson bolting to his feet with his shoulders back as if he was about to challenge my friend Cecil Lammey to a fight in the middle of Media Night. Wilson immediately relaxed his posture, smiled, and resumed talking, but there was a briefest instant that something was off.
When I asked Cecil about what I saw, he laughed. It turned out that he asked Wilson how the quarterback would feel about backing up Tim Tebow in Denver. After Wilson reacted as I described, his response to Cecil was, “I have no intention of backing up anyone in the NFL.”
There was the time Michael Sam interrupted me during an interview with a teammate where I was explaining that I just wanted to talk about football and nothing deeply personal.
Sam, who I did not know by name at that time, blurted out “So you don’t want to know my deepest, darkest secrets?”
“Only if you really feel the need to tell me…”
He paused for a second, tilted his head as he looked at me, and smiled as he said, “Nah…that’s okay.”
Not a month later, Sam came out of the closet to the nation on ESPN. There was no way he would have told me—a blogger—but I’ll always remember it.
My favorite moment happened last year when two former NFL players meeting with John Elway to get a job with the Broncos happened upon me in line at the local Starbucks and broke off their conversation with Elway to share their appreciation of the RSP Film Room. As that former Browns fan, watching Elway looking at me as these two guys turned their backs on him, it was almost as amazing as the expression on the Hall of Famer’s face—one that I read as Elway thinking, Who the hell is this guy in a wool cap that has two potential employees breaking off conversation with me to geek out over him?
It was incredibly odd and cool to have the tables turned with the football players excited to meet me instead of the other way around. This is especially true when there are many terrific writers and people that I’ve enjoyed our shared learning experience at practice or over a meal in addition to my buds Cecil and Jene Bramel, including Chad Reuter, Matt Bowen, Dane Brugler, and Russ Lande
Going to the Senior Bowl remains one of the highlights of my year, but the reasons behind my excitement have changed since my first trip.Now, I see this eagerness from others making their first visits to Mobile.
I also feel a kinship with a lot of the writers that I’m fortunate to spend time with during the week, including Emory Hunt, Turron Davenport, Bryan Perez, Charles McDonald, John Owning, Luke Easterling, Mike Tanier, Mark Schofield, Josh Norris, and many others.
As we have for several years, Jene Bramel and I will cover the weigh-in and practices as we always have. But I’ll also be sharing more sights, sounds, and perspectives of the writers that attend this game. I want you to get a taste of what it’s like to be there through my eyes.
And I’ll continue to deliver my perspective on what I find valuable (and overrated) about the practices. Things that you may not find elsewhere because my esteemed peers may lack the desire, opportunity, or editorial flexibility to discuss.