Scouting for the 2005 draft
By Gil Brandt
Special to NFL.com
(May 11, 2004) -- For the 47th year, the Playboy All-America Team has been put together. It's essentially a preseason all-star lineup of the best collegiate athletes from across the country selected by myself and Playboy sports editor Gary Cole. It also serves as a tremendous preview for the 2005 NFL Draft.
Analysis, opinions, features and more!
Check out last year's list -- the amount of top draft picks is astonishing. Six of the first nine, 13 in the first round and 16 of the top 46 were on the Playboy team in '04. Included among them were Eli Manning (No. 1 overall), Robert Gallery (No. 2), Sean Taylor (No. 5), Kellen Winslow (No. 6), Roy Williams (No. 7) and Reggie Williams (No. 9). It goes without saying that any draft fan should make a note of the Playboy team every year and track their performance.
I am fortunate enough to spend time with the Playboy team every year in Arizona when the players fly into town with the sports information directors (SIDs) from their schools and participate in a special weekend dedicated to them. They also take part in an exclusive photo shoot for the magazine.
But that's not all they do. Here is a shortened schedule of what happened at this year's Playboy All-America Team weekend:
Friday, 9:30 a.m.: This is when the weekend officially started because our first player -- linebacker A.J. Hawk from Ohio State -- arrived with his SID, Steve Snapp. More players arrived the same day until 5:30 p.m. when LSU head coach Nick Saban and three of his players landed.
Friday, 6 p.m.: Now that everyone had arrived, all the honored players gathered at our hotel and started signing footballs. This might have been the hardest "work" these guys had to do all weekend, but it was worth it because every player got a football signed by the entire Playboy team. They also received some Reebok equipment that did not exceed the value the NCAA allows its players to receive.
Friday, 7:30 p.m.: This was our welcoming party, where players get to see pictures of the previous Playboy teams and enjoy a good meal. This was a great chance for the players to get to know one another and spend some time together.
Gil Brandt poses with LSU stars Marcus Spears, Corey Webster and Andrew Whitworth.
After dinner, the first "event" of the weekend took place when "game night" commenced. Besides, whenever you get this many football players together in one place, the competitive juices can't help but flow. This was a chance for everyone there to play different athletic skill games against each other. So the players and guests divided into nine teams, each with their own NFL team name (we borrowed the Redskins, Packers, Falcons, Patriots, Eagles, Cowboys, Browns, Texans and Giants monikers). Teams shot hoops, hit baseballs, threw footballs, putted golf balls, kicked soccer goals, shot hockey goals and swatted tennis balls. After game night players were free to do whatever they wanted for the rest of the night.
Saturday, 10 a.m.: We kicked off this day with the Wacky Olympics, a brand new event to the Playboy weekend (replacing our annual water games competition). Without question, this was a huge success as teams threw oversized balls, ran relay races with hula hoops, did funny shuttle drills and even had to come up with their own 30-second cheer. Even Heath Miller, our tight end, ran to the podium with a flag and Olympics music played to start the event.
As part of the event, teams could do something totally fun on their own to earn points, and you wouldn't believe what four of the guys did. Mark Clayton, Antrel Rolle, Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Kevin Burnett did synchronized backflips. You can imagine how athletic these guys are. The Texans, made up of Alex Barron, Brooks, Clayton and Williams narrowly beat the Eagles.
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.: How do you follow up nearly 24 hours of fun, games and hanging out with your peers? How about hanging out in an ice house in your workout gear? That's exactly what the Playboy team did next as part of their photo shoot for the magazine. After all, this is why they were here.
Before refrigerators came into kitchens, families used to buy their ice from vendors who produced ice, much like how farmers produce fruits and vegetables. These vendors used to store their ice in ice houses, which are basically warehouse-sized freezers. You could imagine how popular these ice vendors were in steamy Arizona way back when. Of course, almost everyone has a refrigerator and a freezer in their home now, so there isn't a need for ice vendors or ice houses anymore.
But Phoenix happens to have one as a historical landmark, so that's where the photo shoot was. Players wore their workout clothes, complete with team logos, mascots and slogans on them, and the photos will have a light ice-blue effect to them. You could say it was the "cool" place to be.
Saturday, 7 p.m.: The last event of the weekend was a cowboy-themed carnival for everyone to participate in. Here players could try their hand at riding a mechanical bull, take part in a roping contest or fire off in a quick draw game. The players had a blast.
Following that was our annual awards ceremony to wrap up the series of events. Every year we give out awards not for the most athletic or most talented, but for off-the-wall things like best dressed, funniest ... and stuff like that. We'll share those awards with you below.
Sunday: No events were scheduled, but players were seen lounging by the pool, working out and generally relaxing before they flew home. Phone numbers were exchanged and handshakes were all around as the 2004 Playboy All-America Team split up.
Cast of characters
So who made the team? Let's end the suspense -- here they are:
Player Pos. College
Matt Leinhart QB USC
Cedric Benson RB Texas
Carnell "Cadillac" Williams RB Auburn
Darren Sproles RB Kansas State
Mark Clayton WR Oklahoma
Braylon Edwards WR Michigan
Heath Miller TE Virginia
Alex Barron OT Florida State
Elton Brown OG Virginia
Greg Eslinger C Minnesota
C.J. Brooks OG Maryland
Andrew Whitworth OT LSU
Player Pos. College
Dan Cody DL Oklahoma
Shaun Cody DL USC
Matt Roth DL Iowa
Marcus Spears DL LSU
Kevin Burnett LB Tennessee
A.J. Hawk LB Ohio State
Derrick Johnson LB Texas
Josh Bullocks DB Nebraska
Marlin Jackson DB Michigan
Antrel Rolle DB Miami (Fla.)
Corey Webster DB LSU
Player Pos. College
Johnathan Nichols PK Ole Miss
Antonio Perkins KR Oklahoma
Tom Malone P USC
Morgan Scalley Scholar athlete Utah State
Nick Saban Coach LSU
As promised, here are the awards from our Friday night ceremony. You'll see soon enough that these are fun awards -- nothing that can be put on a football résumé (aside from being on the Playboy team).
Best All Sports Team: The Redskins, made up of Brown, Shaun Cody, Hawk, Leinart and Miller.
Overachieving Sports Team: The Patriots, made up of Brooks, Patriots scout Kyle O'Brien, NFL P.R. guru Chris Jenkins, Texas academics advisor Jean Bryant and family member Hunter Brandt. Brooks is such a good guy -- he became the leader of a team where he was the only Playboy player. He certainly deserves an extra award just for that. Surprisingly, this team finished fifth -- ahead of four other teams.
Most popular player: Hands down, this goes to Tom Malone. Malone had a friend at Arizona State who came to watch the Wacky Olympics with 20 sorority girlfriends of his. The guys enjoyed the very attractive and very lively crowd in attendance.
Best players for all games over the weekend: A.J. Hawk and Carnell Williams. Williams was also the most supportive teammate during the weekend, always rooting his fellow players on.
Quick draw champion: Mark Clayton with a close second Braylon Edwards. Clayton was pretty fast, but not as fast as Dre' Bly's record when he was on the Playboy team.
Bull riding champion: Cedric Benson. He stayed on for 14 seconds! Marcus Spears had the most attempts (seven) but did not stay on long for any of them. Benson was also Mr. Congeniality, always talking and being friendly with everyone else.
Receivers Braylon Edwards (Michigan) and Mark Clayton (Oklahoma) flank USC QB Matt Leinhart.
Best NFL prospect you haven't heard a lot about
: Kevin Burnett, linebacker from Tennessee. He's big, fast, smart and he's a leader. He's the first Tennessee Volunteer to be the team captain as a junior -- something neither Peyton Manning nor any other Volunteer hasn't done since 1944. He's also the first Volunteer in almost 100 years to be a two-time team captain at UT.
Player you would most like your daughter to marry: Heath Miller. He's a small-town young man who seems to do everything right, including being an outstanding football player.
Best dressed: Carnell Williams. "Cadillac" always looked great, from the time he arrived until he left.
Early riser award: Greg Eslinger, who had a 6:15 a.m. tee time Sunday and finished 18 holes by 9:30. Be sure to ask him about his drive on the 18th hole. Eslinger is the first high school player from North Dakota to be on the Playboy team.
Best dancer: Alex Barron, who takes over for last year's winner, Shawn Andrews.
Most polite: Kyle O'Brien, a scout with the Patriots. He referred to everyone as Mr., Sir or Ma'am.
Most popular room at the hotel: Matt Leinart and Shaun Cody. If you were looking for a player, they were most likely in the two Trojans' room. They are both quality guys and a lot of fun to be around.
Best physical specimen: Almost all of the Playboy players are in fantastic shape, but Heath Miller and Antrel Rolle topped them all. By the way, Rolle's father is the police chief in Homestead, Fla.
Throwback jersey king: Elton Brown and Alex Barron. Each wore different jerseys ranging from "Jellybean" Bryant to Jim Everett.
Best look-alike: Darren Sproles and Barry Sanders. Sproles is the same size, speed, personality and ability as the Hall of Famer.
Quiet but competitive: Corey Webster and Andrew Withworth, LSU. It's easy to see why LSU wins with people like these two. Whitworth, by the way, is 335 pounds and doesn't have a soft spot on him.
Person everyone wanted to meet and talk with: Nick Saban, LSU head coach. Many of the players there either play for Saban or were recruited by Saban. He has this aura about him -- he's easily one of the most charismatic college coaches around.
Last but not least, the SIDs who helped make this weekend special deserved to be thanked. They are:
John Bianco, Texas
Phil Haddy, Iowa
Mark Pray, Miami (Fla.)
Steve Snapp, Ohio State
Shane Sanderfelt, Minnesota
Tim Tessalone, USC
Chris Jenkins, NFL P.R.