Gators Notes and Quotes from East-West Shrine Bowl Practice
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla -- "Nice catch, man."
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden was impressed, and he let former Florida Gators wide receiver Freddie Swain know it as he jogged down the sidelines and back to the huddle during day two of East-West Shrine Bowl practices.
Swain had just run an intermediate crossing route in one-on-one drills, and with plenty of separation across the middle of the field, he caught a pass in-stride and broke up-field. It was a route reminiscent of his 64 yard touchdown on Florida's opening drive against Auburn this past October in Gainesville.
It was far from Swain's first, or last, play of the day. Throughout 1-on-1's 7-on-7's, and team scrimmage, Swain consistently caught passes as the East team's first slot receiver. Princeton quarterback Kevin Davidson, Mississippi State's Tommy Stevens, and James Morgan of Florida International were slinging the rock.
I tried to speak with Swain following practice in the 20 minute interview block. But no luck - NFL scouts occupied his entire session with questions about his football and personal life.
Those conversations, obviously, are far more important than anything I could have asked him. That's what makes events like the Shrine Bowl important. With an impressive day in pads in front of the likes of Gruden and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, Jacksonville Jaguars HC Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell, Miami Dolphins senior personnel executive Reggie McKenzie, and several hundred NFL front office personnel, scouts, and agents, a prospect's draft stock can take off.
Expect that to happen with Swain if his practices translate to the Shrine Bowl on Saturday, which you can watch on NFL Network at 3:30 P.M.
Swain is joined at the Shrine Bowl by two Florida teammates, in fellow slot receiver Josh Hammond and punter Tommy Townsend.
Swain and Hammond's position coach at Florida, Billy Gonzales, made the trek down on Tuesday morning to watch two products of his coaching take the field in attempts to boost their chances of being selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.
"It means a lot, coming into an all-star game with a bunch of new faces and to just have somebody that you know," Hammond said of playing with Swain in the Shrine Bowl. "Especially at the same position, it just makes you feel more comfortable. We keep each other going, if we mess up or something we can go to each other and correct each other, and know that we want the best for each other because we've been together for so long."
Hammond had himself a solid day at practice too, making several receptions in team scrimmages. He said that team scouts have approached him as well.
"I've talked to a couple of teams," Hammond told GatorMaven. "...if I continue to work hard, and do the things I have to do, everything is going to take care of itself. For me, it's just continuing to work."
For Townsend, he understands the odds of a punter being drafted are typically slim. So, he's looks to his brother Johnny, a former Gators punter (2013-17) and fifth round pick by the Raiders for help in the draft process.
"[Johnny]'s been giving me tips and, kind of insights as for what to expect throughout this process," Townsend told GatorMaven.
"Especially with this week, he played in the Reeses Senior Bowl, so he let me know how the interviews go, the basic idea of the weekly schedule, it's just like non-stop. We're always in and out of something, whether it's meetings, practice, or meeting with scouts. We're here for business."
Townsend said that he has met with 10 teams so far.
"Just out here, it's a week of competition," he continued."Trying to put a good food forward, trying to show off a little bit. and hopefully I'll get some workouts and stuff like that in the future."