MOUNT PLEASANT - College football players poured into the Charleston Harbor and Marina Resort on Sunday afternoon, but they were not greeted like winter tourists seeking the Lowcountry sun.
As they checked in for the start of Medal of Honor Bowl week, culminating with Saturday's game at Johnson Hagood Stadium, the draft-eligible all-stars were put straight to work by NFL scouts. They had their hands measured, were subject to interviews and even took the famed Wonderlic, the aptitude test widely used by the NFL to measure the intelligence of prospective players.
On Monday morning, the players will be measured and weighed before participating in the first practice of the week.
It's all part of a week that for many of the players will mark the beginning of their transition from college student to professional, whether they end up in the NFL or not.
"This is a really important week for me and for all of us," said Kenny Cook, an FCS All-American receiver from Gardner-Webb. "I'm excited to go against players from different levels, with all the scouts watching you. This is the first step of trying to go to the next level."
With more than 40 players from the ACC and SEC on Medal of Honor Bowl rosters, there is plenty of opportunity for small-school players such as Cook.
"That's really my main thing, just to show I can play at this level and that I belong," said Cook, a 6-4 senior who caught 64 passes for 758 yards and five touchdowns this season. "I'm not really trying to prove anything, though. I'll just do what I always do."
Virginia running back Kevin Parks played college ball at a high level, rushing for 745 yards for the Cavaliers this season. But he knows that means little this week.
"I feel like I've got to be focused all week," said Parks, a 5-8, 200-pound senior. "This is the start of everything, and you want to get started on the right track and impress everybody. I've already had some NFL guys call a couple of my friends to ask about me. I just say, answer everything truthfully and things should be good."
The talent on the Medal of Honor Bowl rosters was enough to draw Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, among many other scouts and NFL personnel staffers.
"We find all-star games to be very beneficial, and it looks like they've got a strong roster here," Thompson said Sunday. "They've got guys from all over the country and they are anxious to interview and get things started.
"It helps us tremendously, because a lot of times we have not gotten enough looks at certain kids. This week, we can get those looks."
Most of those looks will come during the week of practices at The Citadel, where the players know they will be under the microscope.
"It's a great opportunity for us to showcase our talents against some of the best players in America," said Marshall offensive lineman Chris Jasperse, a 6-5, 294-pound senior. "It's so important, especially for a guy like me. In Conference USA, we don't always get a chance to play against the best guys. This is a good chance to go against those guys and show them what I've got."
The Medal of Honor Bowl lost lineman Max Garcia of Florida and safety Ibraheim Campbell of Northwestern to the Senior Bowl, said deputy director of player personnel Austin Atkinson. Georgia Tech lineman Shaq Mason has also pulled out, Atkinson said. The Medal of Honor Bowl added Kansas safety Cassius Sendish, an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick this season.
Events for fans to attend this week include the Heroes Luncheon for The Wounded Warriors of S.C. on Tuesday and the Gridiron Greats Panel Discussion on Thursday at Seacoast Church in Mount Pleasant. Ticket information for both events is at www.mohbowl.com.
Medal of Honor Bowl chairman Tommy McQueeney said a solid turnout for Saturday's game is vital for the event's first year on TV. The game will be shown on NBC Sports Network. Fans have a chance to win a Mercedes Benz at the game, and a donation of $20 will earn fans a chance at a Super Bowl VIP package. See www.mohbowl.com for details.