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This week at the Senior Bowl: Part 3 - The Senior Bowl is for amateurs, but players can make themselves some money

The Senior Bowl is an unpaid event for amateur athletes but inside the white lines of Hancock Whitney Stadium in mobile Alabama there is a lot of money to be made.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

With the way rookie contracts are given out in today’s NFL, where you are drafted directly determines the amount of money you make. Long gone are the days of elongated holdouts by top rookie prospects hoping to squeeze more money out of their organizations. As a result, moving up, or down, the draft board of an NFL team equates directly to the addition or subtraction of dollars in a rookie’s bank account. Events like the Senior Bowl or the NFL Scouting Combine are unpaid functions, but each represents an outstanding opportunity for prospects to change the way teams across the league view them.

As the week has gone on, there have been multiple players who have starred on the practice field from day one, through day two, and into the conclusion of day three. There have been others who have simply put forth a good outing and followed it up by fading away into obscurity, and some have been consistently up and down from rep to rep in each practice.

One individual who has not taken a step back all week, only steps forward through the hole, is running back Tyjae Spears. He has been hard to miss during the American Team practices. Whether you’re watching the running back group or not, somehow the back out of Tulane manages to find himself making a big play once or twice every practice that gets the crowd ‘ooo-ing and ahhh-ing.’

Spears has done well when targeted out of the backfield, he has wheeled and dealed in space, and maybe most exciting for scouts, he has seemed to really have embraced pass protection responsibilities. Having the understanding that as a running back in today’s NFL you have more responsibilities than just running, is a valuable trait for a prospect to possess. Here’s a young man competing in the Senior Bowl, out of Tulane, hitting linebackers like he’s got a passion for it. Speaking with him during the media availability portion of practice I emphasized how much he stood out in pass protection drills and asked what the motivation behind his effort was—

“I had to turn it up because I was seeing my quarterback on the ground [and] most of the time it was my fault.. I’m not just fighting for myself, I’m fighting for him too.”

Through additional questioning, Spears was asked if any part of this process has been mentally draining or stressful for him, to which he replied, explaining that he doesn’t understand how everyone isn’t willing and chomping at the bit to work hard this week—

“It’s either you gotta be here or be at home… This is the opportunity of a lifetime, People don’t get this opportunity… I [would] be selfish if I said it’s a grueling week, I love it.”

With consistent emphasis being placed on being the type of running back who never really needs to leave the field, Spears is a player who gets what it is to be a professional and has shown he is willing to do the dirty work that it takes to be successful at the NFL level. These are rare traits to find in a young player and they will, no doubt, serve him well as he continues on through the draft process.

To check out any of the previous parts in the serious click the links below.

Part 1- This week at the Senior Bowl: Pt. 1- ‘Puka Island’ - Bucs Nation
Part 2-This week at the Senior Bowl: Part 2 - Tampa and their tall corners. - Bucs Nation