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January 20, 2012
BOCA RATON, Fla.-- Six former FSU standouts will have a final opportunity to impress NFL scouts in the inaugural Battle of Florida All Star game on Saturday.
Among a crop of more than 100 players with Florida ties, the game features players who just completed their senior seasons in college and played either high school or college football in the Sunshine State. The game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET at the Florida Atlantic University Football Stadium.
Safety Terrance Parks, running backs Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones, tight end Ja'Baris Little, and wide receiver Bert Reed are all members of the North Team which is coached by Bobby Bowden. Tight end Beau Reliford is a member of Howard Schnellenberger's South squad.
"It's really a great deal," Parks said following Friday's practice at FAU. "Just to be in a game like this after Florida State and just be able to play with the guys that I played with on the collegiate level, it's just a great thing."
The game not only has given the former teammates one more chance to spend some time together on the gridiron, but it also been an opportunity for them to work out for NFL scouts.
In years past, players who did not receive invites to either the Senior Bowl or the East-West Shrine Game - the two top collegiate all-star games - had to wait until their Pro Days to catch some attention from NFL scouts. But scouts have been dropping by Battle of Florida practices all week long.
"We've had a lot of scouts out here," Reed said. "More than I would have expected. There's a lot of players out here. There's a lot of players in Florida and I think the scouts know that. With them seeing that I think it drew them to this game."
None of the six Seminoles in the game were given a "draftable" grade by ESPN's Scouts, Inc. or NFLDraftScout.net. Still, the week of practice has given them the opportunity to perform in front of scouts from nearly every NFL team in hopes they catch some attention.
"It's a huge opportunity because of the scouts out here," Little said. "If you didn't get a chance to come here then you wouldn't get that look. There are probably going to be other opportunities to get looks also but this a pretty good one to show your talent and knowledge about the game."
The combination of the scouts stopping by practices, coupled with the natural competitiveness of the athletes in the game has lead to an intense four days of practice capped off with a walk-through on Friday morning.
"There's a lot of talent out there right now and everybody is fighting for a job right now," Reliford said. "It's definitely going to be intense, but I'm really enjoying it. Especially with seeing some of the old players I played with back home."
Each of the former FSU players said they have had the opportunity to speak with scouts throughout the week. While it may not lead to them being drafted, it certainly increases their chances of being signed as a rookie free agent or get a chance in another pro league like the Canadian Football League.
With practices wrapped up, Saturday will be the their final chance to show the scouts something until FSU's Pro day sometime in March.
"I think I've had a strong week and I look forward to finishing it off in the game," Reed said. "A lot of scouts seem interested and I just thank the Lord for that. I'm just going to try to finish up, go back to Florida State and have a nice Pro Day. I'm training in Atlanta right now and getting prepared for the Pro Day there and we'll see what happens."
Bowden reunites with former players
With his return to the sideline on Saturday, legendary former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden will be reunited with a number of his former players.
"It's definitely an honor," Reed said of playing for Bowden again. "These guys are really excited, my (North) teammates are (excited) to be playing for him they want to know how he is. I told them he's a great guy, he's funny, he's sharp and guys just want to interact with him. Coach Bowden's a legend and for us to be able to have this opportunity to be coached by him, or heard words from him and listen, it means a lot to us guys."
Bowden and Reed have a bit more unique relationship than the rest of his former players participating in the game.
Reed's brother Andre was killed during his Bert's freshman year at FSU in 2007 and he had a hard time coping. Then, during the 2008 season he was suspended three separate times for missing class and his involvement in an on-campus brawl.
But after a meeting with Bowden in his office, Reed turned things around has been out of trouble ever since. He finished his career at FSU with 170 receptions for 2,022 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"I really feel like Coach Bowden gave me the chance that I needed," Reed said. "He told me Bert your back is against the wall. I really feel like that kind of changed me, and it kind of made me grow up a lot. I can't thank him enough."
Bowden said that each player responds to those type of meeting differently but that Reed is an example of how being disciplined can help you turn things around.
"He had an older brother murdered in his front yard. These kids go through that and you can understand why they get in trouble," Bowden said. "They've just been around it. Football can help them, because you have to be disciplined to play football. If they'll stick with it, it helps them. Bert is probably a good example of that."
Reliford the lone wolf
Of Bowden's nine former players in the game, Beau Reliford is the lone member of the South team.
The 6-foot-6, 260 pound tight end played high school football in Fort Lauderdale for Dillard High so he as placed on the South squad.
"It is (kind of strange being the only FSU guy on the South)," Reliford said. "But I'll make the best of it."
Off the field he has still been able to hang out with his former teammates, but once the game begins Terrance Parks says he will have no qualms about laying the wood on Reliford.
"That's my dog but when my whistle blows we've got to play ball," Parks said with a smile. "We're going to be great friends, just like we are now, after the game, but we've got to handle business during the game."
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