NFL Draft: 2022 Hula Bowl Movers And Shakers
The 2022 Hula Bowl will be played on Saturday, Jan. 15 on the campus of UCF at the Bounce House in Orlando, Fla.
Established in 1946, the game has taken many twists and turns throughout its history. Traditionally played on the islands of Hawaii, the event has moved to Florida this year and all indications are that it will remain there for the time being.
The game will feature NCAA college football players from all divisions, along with international prospects from Japan, Canada, Australia and the UK. In addition, the showcase will include Polynesian players with historic ties to the islands.
Below are a few players who have generated NFL interest throughout the week during Hula Bowl practice:
McKenzie Milton, QB, Florida State
This has felt like the "McKenzie Milton Bowl," as the former UCF quarterback returned to the "Bounce House,"’ his home for four seasons before finishing his career at Florida State. The decorated quarterback had a well-documented gruesome knee injury, which nearly ended his career. McKenzie has shown off his arm strength during his week in Orlando, showcasing the ability to make all the throws. During his time with the Black Knights, the Hawaii native totaled 8,583 passing yards and 72 touchdowns in 33 games. While height and durability concerns may limit his pro options, Milton has the makeup of a future head coach based on his smarts and leadership qualities.
Julius Chestnut, RB, Sacred Heart
One of the top players in Orlando this week, Chestnut is a bruising back capable of running over or around defenders—he’s also a dependable pass-catcher out of the backfield. A Walter Payton Award finalist, Chestnut guided the Pioneers to back-to-back NEC Championships, demonstrating a bullish running style and enough wiggle in the open field to garnish NFL attention. In fact, Chestnut has already earned an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, scheduled to be played on Jan. 29 in Pasadena, Calif. At 5-foot-11 and 224 pounds, he is expected to test in the mid-4.50 range, which could very well put him in the equation as a Day 3 prospect.
Liam Shanahan, C, LSU
It’s hard to go unnoticed at LSU, but Shanahan has remained in relative anonymity as a starter the past two seasons in Baton Rouge. Previously, the Massachusetts mauler was last seen dominating the Ivy League during his time at Harvard. At 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, Shanahan tips the scales at a solid size for the center position. His combination of work ethic, intelligence (earned an MBA in business during his time at LSU) and leadership might be unparalleled in this year’s draft class. In addition, he possesses the versatility to play all three interior offensive line positions. Shanahan projects as a borderline Day 3/priority free-agent prospect.
Ralfs Rusins, DT, Liberty
There are many international players at the Hula Bowl, including Liberty defensive tackle Ralfs Rusins, who hails from the Baltic village of Carnikava, Latvia. A three-year starter for the Flames, Rusins has shown steady improvement each season, racking up 129 tackles during that span, including 15 tackles for loss and six sacks. While he has primarily played nose guard in college, several NFL scouts have shared sentiments that they might actually prefer Rusins at offensive guard due to his athletic limitations. The potential to flip sides and convert could possibly increase his NFL interest. It’s a situation worth monitoring throughout the draft process for the 6-foot-5, 311-pound European prospect.
Isaiah Graham-Mobley, LB, Boston College
Known as "Ocho Loco" during his time at Temple and earning a single-digit (eight) honors, Graham-Mobley is not a gaudy player who has commanded much media attention during his collegiate career. However, keen observers have appreciated his special-teams prowess, appearing on all four units, while serving as a premier gunner and bringing an unmatched level of intensity between the stripes. A fiery player who will endear himself to coaches and players alike, don’t count out the King of Prussia native to make a 53-man roster come August.
Christian Benford, CB, Villanova
Remove the FCS sticker from the helmet and Benford looks every bit the part of a player who belongs on Sundays. A distinguished All-CAA selection and four-year starter, the Maryland native measured in at an impressive 6-foot and 197 pounds. Few, if any, defenders in the nation got their hands on more balls this past season than Benford, as evidenced by his 25 pass deflections (per school site) and seven interceptions. In addition, the aggressive cover man is not afraid to stick his nose in the dirt and help out against the run. As the draft process wears on, more NFL teams will take notice of the sturdy and reliable Benford.
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- Reese’s Senior Bowl – February 6th, 2022 (Mobile, AL)
- East-West Shrine Bowl – February 3rd, 2022 (Las Vegas, NV)
- NFLPA Collegiate Bowl – January 29th, 2022 (Pasadena, CA)
- Hula Bowl – January 15th, 2022 (Orlando, FL)
- SPIRAL Tropical Bowl – January 17th, 2022 (Orlando, FL)
- Cajun All-Star Bowl – February 12th, 2022 (Beaumont, TX)
- College Gridiron Showcase – January 8th, 2022 (Fort Worth, TX)