Watch the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl live Saturday, Jan. 18 on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. CT
Carson, Calif. - Senior wide receiver Greg Hardin has spent this past week soaking in much more than the warm California sunshine. He's been showcasing his skills in front of NFL personnel from all 32 teams and learning from some of the best coaches and players the league has produced.
"It's been a great experience and I've learned a lot from former players and coaches," Hardin said. "We've been surrounded by players like Willie Parker (former Pittsburgh Steelers running back), Daunt Culpepper (former Minnesota Vikings quarterback) and Andre Reed (former Buffalo Bills wide receiver) just to name a couple. And, even Terrell Owens was at one of our practices."
Hardin is among 13 Division I wide receivers from the FBS and FCS level playing in this all-star game set to air on ESPN2 Saturday at 5 p.m. CT.
There has been little time for the players to enjoy southern California this week, but they knew this was a business trip from the moment they arrived in town.
A typical day for Hardin has consisted of breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and team meetings from 7:30-10 a.m. After lunch at 11 a.m., both the American and National teams head to the Stubhub Center where the game will be played for an afternoon practice.
The practices have lasted about 2.5 hours and when those are concluded, the players go back to the hotel for dinner. After the meal, the NFLPA has done various presentations for about an hour, then the players are interviewed by different team representatives and scouts that are working the game.
It has been a similar process each day during the week, but there is a little more time off for the players on Friday. Hardin said even though the practices have been conducted only in shoulder pads and helmets, the sessions have been intense.
"Everyone wants to show that they belong," he said. "We've only gone up against our team (in the practices), so it's been a good tempo, but we are all competing for something here, so they have been spirited."
Hardin has been afforded to the opportunity to work directly with Reed all week, who is the wide receivers coach for the American Team.
"He has been really great at just giving us tips that you will need to know at the professional level," Hardin said. "He played in the league for 16 seasons, so just all the experience that he and all the other coaches have is important to learn from too."
Former Minnesota Viking head coach Denny Green is the head coach for the squad, but Hardin has relished the chance to work with a future Hall of Famer that knows a thing or two about coming from a lower level than the majority of players in this game.
Reed played his college football at Division II Kutztown (Pa.) University and was a seven-time Pro Bowler for the Bills. He ranks 11th all-time in NFL history with 951 career receptions.
Hardin set numerous UND career records during his four-year career, finishing with 216 receptions, 3,561 receiving yards and 31 touchdowns. He is hoping to translate some of that success to the field on Saturday when he gets one more chance to make some lasting impressions on NFL personnel.
"I just want to play to the best of my ability," he said. "And, as always get that team win."
-- UND --