This past week was a big one in the City of Mobile. Around mid-week, flights filled with NFL coaches, scouts and fans descended upon the Port City for one reason: to watch senior football players from colleges all over the Country in a North vs. South exhibition game we call the Reese's Senior Bowl. The city was buzzing and the entire feeling can be best described as electric.
Locals casually ran into MAJOR NFL names like John Gruden (Head Coach of the Oakland Raiders) at their favorite downtown eateries. Others made sure they made it to the "Meet the Players" event at the Mobile Convention center because they knew these boys were about to become stars.
On Friday, the Inaugural Senior Bowl Leadership Summit was held at the Saenger Theater in downtown Mobile and I was BLOWN AWAY by the amount of local business owners, entrepreneurs, students and Average Joe's like myself that made it a point to be there. The team that organized this now annual event, lead by Scott Tindle, Susan Shaw and Bradley Flowers among others, deserve MAJOR applause. The speakers were both informative and entertaining while speaking on a variety of topics including, "Emotional Intelligence, Interpersonal Relationships and How to use Emotional Connection to Strengthen Teams". The panels ranged from coaches like Shanahan and Gruden to Human Performance Expert, Dr. Jim Brennan (Our very own Dan Brennan's brother) and owner of the Savannah Bananas Baseball Team and one of the most brilliant Marketing minds I've ever met, Jesse Cole. See if you can tell which one he in from the pics below ;) The one and only Gary Vaynerchuk, or GaryVee, was in attendance and in FULL support of the Summit, announcing he would be next year's Keynote Speaker and enticing interest from the community an entire year in advance! If you don't believe that people want to become better or feel a need to grow and learn from the best, then you didn't see the amount of people pouring out of the Saenger on Friday. Job well done, friends! I seriously cannot wait.
This Statement from Bradley's Facebook says it all:
SATURDAY MEANT GAME DAY! Confession: Most times I have been to the actual Senior Bowl in recent years were because of work. I love the "Girls of Fall' event at the Convention Center and the pre-game events during the week of the game but the actual game never really drew me in. This year I decided to really dive in. I ended up with field access (how do I actually get this lucky? Will someone call and let me know, please? I don't deserve this.) and took my nephew Tyler along for the ride. He's 22 and a complete savant when it comes to all things football. Really. You don't want to bet him on anything because he knows all stats and remembers every play of every game. He once yelled at me to call Dan Brennan during a Friday night high school broadcast that Dan was working because he had input! I did not call Dan Brennan and in fact, hid the phone. He's a giant weirdo and I love him.
Before the game we hopped around the tent areas to see the local businesses and eat the good food. I even showed up in my #34- Bo Jackson- jersey that my dad bought for me when I was 8yrs old because he made a special appearance in the Piggly Wiggly tent with fans! HOW COOL IS THAT? #BoKnows
By the time we made it to the field, the weather was perfect and I was really ready to get my football on! I was in awe. Everything looks different from the sidelines. The stands were filling up. The coaches were 3 feet away from me and the NFL Network was reporting right behind me. I think I was more geeking out about the reporters than the football players to be honest.
It was 30 minutes to game time. Our lovely Azalea and Dogwood Trail Maids lined the North and South end zones resembling beautiful pastel bouquets of flowers, welcoming guests to our city. The Raiders and 49er's cheerleaders danced mid-field. People loved it...but not nearly as much as who was next...
Look, I was raised an Auburn (and Notre Dame) fan. My only goal in school was to make decent enough grades to get into Auburn (and I did) but I am not one of those fans that hates Alabama because I like Auburn. Honestly, I have had just as many good times in Tuscaloosa as I have on the Plains. AND my cousin Sarah was Big AL when we were in college! So there I am, on the sidelines watching The University of Alabama Marching Band, the WORLD FAMOUS "Million Dollar Band" take the field and bring the entire stadium to their feet with the team's fight song. Side note: not sure when it happened but apparently I know every word to it and sang it LOUDLY! #DrownEmTide! The moment gave me chills. Uncle Henry would’ve been proud.
I saw Mayor Sandy Stimpson walking over and my friend Maya and I went to give him hugs. I adore our Mayor. I wanted to thank him personally for the love and tenderness he displayed this past week as our city mourned the loss of another one of it's protectors, Officer Sean Tuder. I told him that my father retired from MPD having worked the exact same job as Officer Tuder for over 25 years. He asked who my father was, gave me a big hug and told me to tell my dad to stay safe. Let me say this clearly, I LOVE our Mayor.
It was almost immediately after this moment that the crowd was asked to bow their heads in a moment of silence on behalf of Officer Tuder, followed by our National Anthem. Yep. You guessed it. Completely sobbing at this point. Oh! And I ended up on the Mayor's Instagram (3rd pic)! #markthatoffthebucketlist #heymomlookImfamous
The game was fun and the stands were packed! The boys were HUGE and the t-shirt cannon is LIFE GOALS. I want to own and shoot that thing everyday for the rest of my life. I don't know if I will get to experience the game from that perspective again any time soon, but I will experience it!
The thing about living in a town like Mobile is that you will always have people who bash it. It's "too small" and "there's nothing to do". First of all, look at those stands in the photos. FULL. Second, I don't even LOVE football. This was a week-long experience! These people who makes such comments are the same people who will stay here their entire lives and complain about it without venturing out of their comfort zones. Let me clarify their grumblings for you...to truly experience something you must dive in head first. If you don't like the lack of variety in entertainment around town, create some! Our city is thriving on creativity and innovation right now. The opportunities have never been more available to make some magic. Maybe you have lived in Mobile your entire life, but have you ever immersed yourself in the culture? The Reese's Senior Bowl is huge for our city, but even on a smaller scale there is always something happening in town. And if you need a friend to go exploring and get weird with, call me up. I love the Port City. I believe in the Port City. This weekend just made the love a little stronger. With innovation, a sense of community and understanding, we can change lives and Mobile proved this week that we are DOING IT. I’m so proud and eager to be a part of something monumental.