MOBILE, Ala. -- Perception is the enemy of many a football prospect coming into the Senior Bowl, which is why Marshall University tight end Gator Hoskins and West Virginia University running back Charles Sims are intent on doing something about it this week.
Hoskins and Sims are very aware of what the scouts, coaches and general managers around the National Football League have either heard or concluded about them from watching film or talking to other sources. The knock on Hoskins is that he is undersized for the direction his position is going at the next level, and Sims is viewed as more of a scat back or utility player and third-down specialist.
Since the majority of the league's personnel people have either already left Mobile or will leave before Saturday's game between the North and the South, how these two athletes performed on the practice field all week was crucial. Hoskins, who weighed in at his listed 244 pounds but measured an inch shorter than what shows on the roster at 6-foot-1, kept his focus sharp in terms of what kind of impression he wants to leave.
"I want to come in and prove that I can play with the best of the best and prove that I'm not too small and that I can get the job done," said Hoskins, who caught 28 touchdowns on 99 receptions in his career. "One of my weaknesses is my blocking and me being undersized I'm kind of smaller than the rest of those guys. But one of my strengths is I'm quick and I've got a lot of speed that can be used in the pass game."
Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars is coaching the North with his staff and the Atlanta Falcons' Mike Smith and his staff are coaching the South. They are putting the players through the paces of a real NFL practice so they can be ready and so the evaluators on hand can see everything they need to see.
In Sims' case, this was his best chance to show that he can do everything a starting running back in the NFL can do on a consistent basis against the highest caliber of defensive players. Three of his four college seasons were with the University of Houston, but his one season playing for the Mountaineers was quite impressive, as he rushed for 1,095 yards. He was named Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year
"I need to show that I can hit the holes, be more physical and pick up blocks," Sims said. "I want to prove that I can be an every-down back and that I can stay on the field on first, second and third down."
It took a little while for Sims and Hoskins to adjust to the terminology being used by Bradley and his coaches and to some of the drills, but once they did they were able to let their physical skills take over. Both felt like they picked up the formations and plays well and performed some of the tasks asked of them to the coaches' satisfaction.
Just how the NFL's decision makers will translate their body of work is yet to be known, and Hoskins and Sims also will have the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis to further improve their standing. One other benefit of being invited to the Senior Bowl, which didn't happen for Hoskins until last Thursday, is the interview time each gets with interested teams.
"They basically just want to know everything," said Sims, who also earned All-Big 12 first-team honors from the coaches and the Associated Press. "They ask you all types of questions and you have to prepare for it. It's a business now. It's an interview. You're interviewing for a job so you have to be prepared for it."
To that end, Hoskins has thought long and hard about his answer to what undoubtedly will be one of the more important questions, which is what he thinks he can bring to an NFL team that warrants him being drafted.
"I just tell them I'm going to come in and work hard and I think I can contribute on the offensive side of the ball, especially in the pass game," he said. "I think I will be a great mismatch problem for a lot of teams and I can come in and block pretty well in the running game. You can use me wherever you want to use me."