Monday, May 7, 2001
Hula BowlsMore involvement by the National Football League in last January's Hula Bowl helped the players land spots on pro rosters via the draft and free agency.
NFL ties helped
The Maui bowl game landedBy Paul Arnett
55 participants in training camps
this summer, but still lags
behind Senior Bowl
The American Football Coaches Association, which is in the final year of its contract with the Hula Bowl, released figures last week that 23 players were drafted and another 32 signed free-agent contracts, including University of Hawaii running back James Fenderson.
He recently attended the New Orleans Saints' first minicamp and said a key reason for him signing a free-agent contract was his selection to the Hula Bowl.
"It gives you the chance to meet with the scouts and show them what you can do in the workouts," Fenderson said. "If you don't get the exposure of playing in an all-star game, it makes it a little harder.
"When all the scouts are there for the organized workouts, they know who you are and how you might fit into their plans. I had a chance to go with Minnesota, too, but I felt like my best chance was at New Orleans."
Hula Bowl chief executive officer Lenny Klompus said he was still in contract talks with the AFCA and ESPN, which is also in the last year of its current deal, but felt good that something will be worked out with both organizations.
"We're still looking for a title sponsor," Klompus said last week. "We knew (former sponsor) Rivals.com was in trouble, but we were hoping they would make it through the last year of their deal with us. We need a title sponsor to make this work. But we believe things will fall into place.
"We want to try some different things next year to keep attracting quality athletes to our game. All the players seem to enjoy the experience. Having the NFL even more involved in things should help us continue to attract the quality athletes people have come to expect here on Maui."
The Senior Bowl remains the top competition among the four college all-star games. The other two are the Blue-Gray Classic and the East-West Shrine, which is played a week before the Hula Bowl.
The Senior Bowl continues to draw quality athletes. This year, 84 of the 111 players taking part in the Mobile, Ala., game were drafted, including eight in the first round and 18 in the second.
Texas Christian running back LaDainian Tomlinson was the first Senior Bowl participant picked as the fifth choice overall. Purdue quarterback Drew Brees was the first Hula Bowl player chosen. He was the first pick of the second round.