Mobile, Ala. – Traveling two teams of players in from all over the country, especially in the midst of a massive winter storm on the East Coast, proved challenging.
But with most everyone accounted for Monday, Senior Bowl week truly began Monday evening when the North and South teams broke off into separate teams for the first time.
At about 8:30 p.m. CT Monday, Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley stood at the front of a meeting room at the Mobile Convention Center, and energetically set the tone for the week, starting with a presentation that included team themes and philosophies and how they were built.
"Competition is our central theme," Bradley said. "If you look up the word 'compete' 200 years ago, 'against' was never in the definition. You know what it was? 'Striving for.' I'm striving to be my best, regardless who we play. That's what competition is all about. You're either competing, you're striving to be your best, or you're not."
"You've got to have a philosophy, that's what you believe in, have conviction in," Bradley said. "We have one: our philosophy is 'It's all about the ball.' Everything we do is about the ball…"
His delivery is filled with energy, and his presentation aided by guides on a projection screen help bring the message to life. Bradley always has energy when delivering presentations in public, but in a team meeting scenario, the energy is turned up just a little more.
The themes and philosophies sound familiar, because they are presented to the Jaguars throughout the year.
That's what the Jaguars coaching staff promised Monday night to the players making up the South team: as close to a professional environment as you can get, both in the meeting rooms and on the practice field. The presentations in both settings might be slightly different with college players, but the core principles and philosophies are essentially the same this week.
"You're gonna get all we (Jaguars coaches) got, because we love it," Bradley said. "You know what I'd be doing here (if we weren't coaching)? I'd be sitting here in the stands for three days watching you guys.
"What a great opportunity we have, our staff gets to coach you, gets to meet with you. You'll have some good days, you'll have some bad days. We're here. Let's treat this like a week in an NFL camp. Let's give you an idea of what it's like."
A week of NFL-caliber camp might open some eyes of players on the South roster, but that's what each player signed up for. The opportunity to learn from NFL coaches and interview with every NFL team is vital, whether they make the league or not.
Yes, the Senior Bowl is an all-star event, and yes, each player has different motivations for wanting to play in the game, and yes, many players will not see each other again after the week is over.
For Bradley and the Jaguars coaching staff, that does not matter.
"We're not trying to change your personality; we're going to try to mold everybody's beliefs into one this week," Bradley said.
That molding started when Bradley called on each player on the team to stand up and introduce himself to the entire room, filled with players and Jaguars coaches.
One-by-one, All-Americans projected as first-round selections next to small-college defensive backs sitting beside special-teamers stood up and laid the groundwork for building a team, or as close as you can get to one during the week of a showcase game.
Bradley disagreed with those who doubt that a group can form in such a short time.
"They say you can't form a team in a week," Bradley told the South team. "Watch. Watch, man. We're gonna do it day after day."