Alabama center Landon Dickerson served as a team captain for the American squad at the Reese’s Senior Bowl on Saturday, even though a knee injury kept him from practicing during the week and sidelined him for the annual all-star game.
“He didn’t get to play, but I wanted to make sure he had a chance to be recognized,” said Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule, whose staff handled the Americans for the game. “He’s given great energy all week.”
Dickerson was among the 14 players from Alabama high schools and colleges who made the trip to Mobile for the 72nd annual Senior Bowl. But as with Dickerson, six of the other players didn’t see any action in the National team’s 27-24 victory over the American squad at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
Of the seven all-stars from the state who did play, American linebackers Riley Cole and K.J. Britt had the biggest impacts.
A South Alabama standout, Cole played on his home field for the final time.
“It meant everything,” Cole said. “Having the opportunity to come back here and play my last game in Hancock Whitney Stadium was such a blessing. I’m very grateful to (Senior Bowl executive director) Jim Nagy for giving me the opportunity. It was such a special moment.”
Riley made his last home game memorable as the former Oneonta High School star had six tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup.
“I just had to calm down,” Cole said. “I knew what my keys were. My coach, coach [AJ] Holcomb from the Panthers, did a really good job of telling us everything that we needed to look at. Being able to focus on my keys really helped me a lot.”
The lone Auburn player in Saturday’s game, Britt had five tackles, including a tackle for loss.
In the second quarter after the Nationals had advanced to a first down on the American 14-yard line, Britt batted a pass by Arkansas quarterback Feleipe Franks into the air, and it was nearly intercepted. On the next snap, Britt stopped Oklahoma running back Rhamondre Stevenson for a 1-yard gain on a run up the middle. The defensive stand on a series that had started at the American 38-yard line limited the Nationals to a field goal and a 13-0 lead.
The former Oxford High School star got his tackle for loss in the first quarter when he caught Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert in the backfield for a 3-yard setback.
Cole also tackled Herbert behind the line of scrimmage for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter.
“I’ve always thought that I can play with anybody,” Cole said. “This week helped me realize that I could hang with everybody who was here and that I belong. I appreciate everybody on the Senior Bowl staff giving me the opportunity to show that.”
The other players with Alabama football roots who saw action included:
· Alabama guard Deonte Brown (Austin High School) started at left guard for the American team.
· Michigan wide receiver Nico Collins (Clay-Chalkville High School) was the only state player on the winning team in Saturday’s game, but he did not record any stats.
· Alabama long snapper Thomas Fletcher handled the snaps on four American punts by Kentucky’s Max Duffy. It could have been more work, but the Americans went for it on fourth down five times.
· UAB linebacker Jordan Smith recorded three tackles.
· UAB wide receiver Austin Watkins Jr. played but did not record any stats.
Dickerson is recovering from a knee injury sustained in the SEC Championship Game – a 52-46 victory over Florida on Dec. 19.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones dressed for the game and participated in pregame warmups. But he spent the contest on the American sideline with Dickerson after sustaining an ankle injury during practice on Thursday.
Jones’ absence from the field left the American quarterback duties to Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond and Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman. Mond won the Most Valuable Player Award for the game.
Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith was never supposed to play after suffering a finger injury in the Crimson Tide’s 52-24 victory over Ohio State in the CFP championship game on Jan. 11. But he attended practices and met with NFL personnel.
Alabama running back Najee Harris was a long shot to play when the week started because of an ankle injury incurred in the national title contest.
Also missing from the field on Saturday were Alabama offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson (who played at Alabama as a freshman) and Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney, a former Blount High School standout.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.