HOUSTON – Like dozens of other hopeful NFL prospects, Alabama defensive lineman Jeremy Clark came here for the annual East-West Shrine Game wanting to make an impact on a coach.
Clark did, but it wasn't quite the impact he had in mind.
After making a nifty move for what would have been a sack of Idaho State quarterback Matt Gutierrez, Clark was shoved by Northern Illinois' Doug Free and Clark collided with East coach Don Shula, knocking the NFL legend to the turf at the Texans' training center.
"I felt bad," Clark said. "When I knocked him down the first thing I thought about was what happened at Penn State. But then he winked at me."
Unlike Penn State's Joe Paterno, who broke his leg when he was involved in a sideline collision last season, Shula – the father of Clark's collegiate coach, Mike Shula – immediately got to his feet. A few more plays like that this week and Clark's draft stock might rise, too.
Scouts have indicated that Clark is a likely fourth-round draft choice. He could potentially move up into the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft or drop to the fifth depending on his offseason.
Clark, who posted 24 tackles for the Crimson Tide last season, is aware his performance during this week's practices and in Saturday's Shrine Game could have a significant influence on his future, so he's approaching this week like a job interview.
He should. After Tuesday's practice a scout from the Cleveland Browns questioned him for several minutes on subjects ranging from his plans after football (real estate) to any injuries he's ever had (a torn ACL his junior year of high school).
"I love to play football," he said. "I'll play where anybody wants me. Hopefully, somebody will like me."
His agent, Ian Greengross of Chicago, said scouts have indicated there is a lot to like about Clark.
"It's not important what I think," Greengross said. "It's only important what the scouts think. They tell me the kid has a high motor, and if you give him a crease he'll find it and disrupt plays. He needs to play to his size, but he'll give a consistent effort on every play.
"A couple of people said he was quicker than they thought. It's a matter of putting it all together. You can't be one-dimensional."
Scouts want the 6-foot-3, 309-pound Clark to play with his pads lower to the ground to gain better leverage against offensive lineman.
That will put him in better position to bring quarterbacks and running backs to the ground. And maybe an occasional coach, too.
Gators gone: Quarterback Chris Leak and receiver Dallas Baker of the national champion Florida Gators were originally on the East roster, but opted to play in the Senior Bowl instead. They were replaced by Idaho State quarterback Matt Gutierrez and Florida defensive lineman Steven Harris.
Swain in pain? Tennessee receiver Jayson Swain left practice momentarily Tuesday. When he returned he appeared to be limping slightly and his right ankle looked as if it had been re-taped.
He catches, he runs: At 6-foot-2, 302-pounds, Michigan State defensive lineman Clifton Ryan hopes he has a future stuffing runs. However, he showed that he can offer a little more, too.
Ryan almost intercepted a middle-screen pass during seven-on-seven drills, but more than made up for it a few plays later when he intercepted another screen and ran 50 yards for what would have been a touchdown.
Notes: All-Star games provide a chance for players from obscure schools to prove themselves. Some on the East roster taking advantage of the opportunity were New Hampshire receiver David Ball - who caught seemingly every thing thrown in his direction- Lane College receiver Jacoby Jones and Alabama State defensive back Michael Coe. Delaware tight end Ben Patrick seemed to get the most attention with a diving catch in front of LSU's Jesse Daniels, which prompted a New York Giants scout to exclaim, "That's what I'm talking about." … South Carolina receiver Syvelle Newton was on the wrong end of one of the better hits of the day. He was handed the football on a reverse, but was jolted off his feet on a hard hit by Daren Stone of Maine. The play gained 3 yards. … Michigan receiver Steve Breaston had a solid workout, which included a nice leaping catch on the sideline. However, he did have a drop, too.