They have worked for four or five years building their resume, and now their accomplishments seem to be secondary in their job search.
For Football Championship Subdivision prospects trying to catch the eye of the NFL scouts, it's not so much what you know or who you know, it's when you show them what you can do.
The elite college football all-star games will be underway this weekend and, for the lucky few, the NFL Scouting Combine will follow next month, with regional combines and pro days scattered about for the not-as-lucky. These opportunities are pivotal times that players must take advantage of to have a legitimate chance to be drafted come late April.
FCS players always have to overcome the "small school" label when the NFL beckons, so the all-conference or All-American accolades won't necessarily stack up if the players don't show scouts they can perform with Bowl Subdivision players. The various showcases put all the players on a relatively level playing field.
An opposing cornerback may never have heard of Eastern Kentucky wide receiver Tyrone Goard before this week's East-West Shrine Game practices, or Samford nose tackle Nicholas Williams will go to the Combine in Indianapolis without any fanfare. But when a player shines at the right time, his stock can rise dramatically.
Such big opportunities only go to a small amount of FCS players, and having the right measurables in size, strength and speed is ultra important. Even those with the awards and titles behind them won't get a chance if scouts don't believe they can project to the next level.
Some postseason all-star games have been held already, but the four biggest ones take place over the next two Saturdays. Of the four, the East-West Shrine Game (Saturday) and the Senior Bowl (Jan. 26) draw more heralded talent than Saturday's NFL Collegiate Bowl and the inaugural but impressive Raycom College Football All-Star Classic.
The FCS lineup for each showcase:
Raycom College Football All-Star Classic
Montgomery, Ala.; CBS Sports Network, 2 p.m. ET
Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman, Jacksonville State running back Washaun Ealey, Alabama State offensive tackle Terren Jones, Murray State offensive lineman Roderick Tomlin, UT Martin wide receiver Quentin Sims, Jacksonville State wide receiver Alan Bonner, Appalachian State linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough, UT Martin nose tackle Montori Hughes, Alabama State cornerback Saeed Lee and Charleston Southern cornerback Charles James.
Wofford fullback Eric Breitenstein, Alabama A&M offensive lineman Jamaal Johnson-Webb, Georgia Southern defensive tackle Brent Russell, McNeese State cornerback Seth Thomas and Stephen F. Austin defensive end Willie Jefferson.
East-West Shrine Game
St. Petersburg, Fla.; NFL Network, 4 p.m. ET
Arkansas-Pine Bluff offensive lineman Terron Armstead, James Madison offensive lineman Earl Watford, Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Nathan Stanley, Alabama State safety Kejuan Riley, Richmond safety Taylor Cooper of Richmond, Georgetown linebacker Robert McCabe, New Hampshire linebacker Matt Evans and Princeton defensive end Mike Catapano.
Portland State place-kicker Zach Brown, Eastern Kentucky wide receiver Tyrone Goard, Idaho State tight end Josh Hill, Howard linebacker Keith Pough, Montana State linebacker Caleb Schreibeis and Arkansas-Pine Bluff defensive end Brandon Thurmond.
NFL Collegiate Bowl
Carson City, Calif.; ESPN2, 6 p.m. ET
Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen, Alabama State quarterback Greg Jenkins, South Carolina State safety Jakar Hamilton, Northern Iowa cornerback J.J. Swain, Fordham offensive lineman Lloyd Morrison Jr., Alabama A&M guard Eugene Joaquenssi, Lamar defensive end/linebacker Marcus Malbrough and Illinois State defensive end/linebacker Nate Palmer.
Villanova wide receiver Norman White, Norfolk State wide receiver Xavier Boyce, Sam Houston State wide receiver Trey Diller, Stony Brook wide receiver Kevin Norrell, Sacramento State tight end T.J. Knowles, Fordham quarterback Ryan Higgins and Appalachian State cornerback Demetrius McCray.
Mobile, Ala., 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Commitments through Tuesday
Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette, Cornell center J.C. Tretter, Harvard H- back/tight end Kyle Juszczyk, Southeastern Louisiana cornerback Robert Alford, William & Mary cornerback B.W. Webb and Georgia Southern safety J.J. Wilcox.
NFL Scouting Combine
Indianapolis; NFL Network
List provided by Josh Buchanan of buyscouting.com
Lehigh wide receiver Ryan Spadola, Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet, Tennessee State offensive lineman Rogers Gaines, Sorensen (Southern Utah), Tretter (Cornell), Watford (James Madison), Johnson-Webb (Alabama A&M), Armstead (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Goard (Eastern Kentucky), Mellette (Elon) and Bonner (Jacksonville State).
New Hampshire defensive tackle Jared Smith, Samford nose tackle Nicholas Williams, Sam Houston State cornerback Dax Swanson, Alford (Southeastern Louisiana), McCray (Appalachian State), Wilcox (Georgia Southern), Hughes (UT Martin) and Webb (William & Mary)
Expected Junior Invites
Tennessee Tech wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers and Eastern Washington wide receiver Brandon Kaufman.
WHO TO WATCH
There are plenty of FCS players to watch in these events, but among the particularly intriguing ones are Alford, Sorensen, Mellette. Kaufman, Maysonet and Wilcox.
Alford, the Southeastern Louisiana cornerback, has the chance to be the first FCS player plucked off the board during the three-day draft from April 25-27. He might be the fastest of the FCS prospects.
Sorensen is the only FCS quarterback who will be drafted. At 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, the former Brigham Young recruit has NFL size. The postseason will test his potential NFL skills.
It's a good draft class for wide receivers, especially for the FCS. Mellette is a possession-type receiver who has to perform well against NFL-level cornerbacks.
Kaufman, another wideout, isn't part of the all-star game curcuit because he is only a fourth-year junior who declared a year early for the draft. He has good size at 6-4, 215, but will have to show his skills and intangibles at the Combine.
Maysonet runs hard and sure looked like a future pro this season as the runner-up for the Walter Payton Award. He could work his way into a draftable spot.
Wilcox has come out of nowhere as a draft prospect because he spent his first three seasons at Georgia Southern on offense, often as a slot receiver. He excelled at strong safety and returned kickoffs this season.