The Denver Post

Reunion tour: College teammates getting back together in the NFL

- By Mark Long

JAC KS ONVILLE , FLA .» Trevor Lawrence was fielding calls, posing for pictures and still hugging everyone in sight when he realized the Jacksonvil­le Jaguars were about to be back on the clock during the first round of the NFL draft.

The No. 1 overall pick paused the in-house festivitie­s and turned up the sound on the bigscreen television.

His phone buzzed a few minutes later.

“We’re picking Travis,” a text from Jacksonvil­le’s brass read.

The spoiler alert created another celebratio­n at Lawrence’s draft party in South Carolina. Lawrence and standout running back Travis Etienne were teammates again, reunited in the NFL after spending three years together in college.

“It just makes it special,” Lawrence said. “I’ve got someone to come with me from Clemson, and it’s just awesome.”

The Jaguars chose Etienne at No. 25, using their first two picks on college teammates for the first time since drafting UCLA tight end Marcedes Lewis (No. 28) and running back Maurice Jones-Drew (No. 60) in 2006.

Jacksonvil­le’s latest reunion was one of several similar ones around the league.

Miami paired Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle with his college quarterbac­k, Tua Tagovailoa. Philadelph­ia got Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith and quarterbac­k Jalen Hurts back together and added center Landon Dickerson a day later.

Cincinnati rejoined receiver Ja’Marr Chase with his quarterbac­k at LSU, Joe Burrow. New England reconnecte­d two pairs of college teammates: quarterbac­k Mac Jones and defensive tackle Christian Barmore from Alabama; and defensive end Ronnie Perkins and running back Rhamondre Stevenson from Oklahoma.

Pittsburgh used fourth-round picks to reunite offensive tackle Dan Moore and linebacker Buddy Johnson from Texas A&M.

Coincidenc­e? Probably not after a year in which evaluating and getting to know prospects was more challengin­g than ever.

The NFL prohibited scouts from traveling last season because of COVID-19 concerns. The league also banned testing, interviewi­ng in person or giving medical exams to any draft-eligible player at any location except a school’s pro day or at an all-star game.

The NFL also eliminated private workouts, facility visits, dinners and film sessions with draft prospects.

So teams were forced to get creative — or possibly predictabl­e — to scout college football’s top talent. After all, you can’t watch Lawrence without noticing Etienne. Same goes for Tagovailoa and Waddle, Burrow and Chase, and Hurts and Smith.

And talking to college coaches at length was a viable option for gaining informatio­n on players. So it would have been somewhat expected that NFL teams digging for details on one guy might find out tidbits on another, a teammate.

“Does it help? Certainly,” Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said. “There’s a lot of familiarit­y with each other, both in the pass game and the run game, so I think it does help.”

There’s little doubt that Jacksonvil­le, Miami, Cincinnati and Philadelph­ia are all trying to recapture some of the chemistry and success their tandems (or trios) enjoyed in college. Alabama (2015, ’17, ’20), Clemson (’16, ’18) and LSU (’19) combined to win the past six national championsh­ips.

Having someone on your roster with insider knowledge helps, too. Bengals coach Zac Taylor went to Burrow and asked specifical­ly about Chase before the draft.

“I don’t know that I needed a lot of convincing,” Taylor said. “I just said, ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, what would be your excitement level if we added Ja’Marr Chase?’ And he said, ‘10.’ That’s a pretty good answer.”

 ?? Bob Self, The Florida Times-Union ?? Former Clemson teammates Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence pose with their Jacksonvil­le Jaguars jerseys during a news conference after the NFL draft.
Bob Self, The Florida Times-Union Former Clemson teammates Travis Etienne and Trevor Lawrence pose with their Jacksonvil­le Jaguars jerseys during a news conference after the NFL draft.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA