California Pintos football players Garrett Burger and Bryant Davis, both linebackers, participated in the Blue-Grey All-American Bowl game Jan. 25 at the Dallas Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.
After performing well in a combine, the two players were invited to play in the game. The coaching staff at the combine and for the game was comprised of NFL veterans and experienced player scouts. The annual event helps prospects from across the country receive national exposure and increase their chances to secure scholarships to a college.
Burger said just being able to be at the game and seeing all the other talented players from around the country and being able to learn from coaches that had been in the NFL was a very cool experience.
Davis said the experience was unreal for him.
"It was crazy how many people were that and how good of athletes there were from all over the nation," Davis said. "Just how large the scale was; it was almost like I was playing in a college game, and we were playing in the Cowboys' stadium, which is absolutely massive. I thought it was an amazing thing."
Burger agreed playing in the bowl game was close to playing in a college game.
"We had the guys who were our kickers, they would send the ball into the end zone every time. In high school, you don't get to run the ball out of the end zone, and they were kicking it past the end zone," Burger said. "The game was a lot faster tempo and it just felt like everybody knew what they were doing."
Davis said every part of the experience was amazing.
The players only had two days of three-hour practices before playing in the game, and Burger said it was incredible to learn from the people at the practices. Burger said he was able to adjust to how fast the players were going.
"It wasn't too bad for me to adjust," Burger said. "When we practiced in our group sessions, we were usually in our own groups. So linebackers were together, defensive backs were together. Everyone was in their own position groups for half the practice, and then we would finally do team time and it reflected a lot about how the Pintos did our team time. It was full contact, and we were able to run through everything fast and easy."
Davis said the game was a big test to see how much he knew and if he was ready to play college football.
"Everybody is so much bigger and so much faster that you just have to know what you are supposed to do," Davis said. "If you do, you can make great plays, but if you don't it kind of shows."
Burger said he enjoyed the tour of the Cowboys' stadium the players went on when they arrived and he enjoyed meeting all of the other participants.
"We got to dress in the locker rooms and being able to meet all the people and see where their experience has come from and how they got to know the game of football," Burger said. "I thought it was really cool. I mean, we had people from California, we had people from North Carolina and New York. Being able to see what football was like in different places was pretty cool."
Bryant said he met several people he said became good friends considering the short amount of time they were there.
Playing at the Cowboys' stadium was another unreal part of the experience, Burger said.
"We walked in, and it did not feel like it was real," Burger said. "When you get in, it feels like you are getting ready to watch an NFL game and the moment you hit the locker room, it was really cool. It was definitely a experience that was once in a lifetime."
Davis said being at the stadium stuck with him as well.
"The first time of walking out on the field and getting to see all of it, that was kind of breathtaking to see how big it was and to actually play in there," Davis said. "It was awesome, it was not even like playing football almost. It was like playing on a dream field because if you landed on the ground, it did not hurt all that bad. It took a little bit to get used to. When we got to play, it was amazing."
Burger said he learned a lot from the experience. The coaches helped a lot with pass coverage, a skill he said was a bit weaker for him coming into the experience. Burger said coaches also showed players different ways to read the backfield and front of the line to slow the ball down easier.
"They taught us a lot of stuff I can use going into college football," Burger said.
Bryant said he, too, learned he can play at a higher level.
"That I am capable of it, that was probably the main thing that I learned," Davis said. "I learned so much more stuff, but that was probably the big one the stuck out to me."