There were always three big showcase games for college football players eligible for the NFL draft for many years: the Senior Bowl, East-West Shrine Bowl, and Hula Bowl. The Senior Bowl, now known as the Reese’s Senior Bowl, is the most prominent of the bunch and is coached by the staffs of two of the NFL teams with the top-five picks in the upcoming draft.
Everyone in the NFL is in Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl for the week of practice. It’s where out-of-work coaches look to find jobs. So, the East-West Shrine Bowl and Hula Bowl took a backseat to the Senior Bowl, with the Hula Bowl ceasing operations after 2008. Thankfully, college football brought the game back in 2020.
This year, there are Hokies featured in several postseason showcase games. The Hula Bowl was played Saturday and Virginia Tech running back Raheem Blackshear participated. It was a good day for Blackshear, as he scored a touchdown.
Blackshear, playing for Team Kai, took a handoff and went around the right side of his offensive line to score untouched from one yard out. Sure, that one run isn’t going to get him drafted, but it was him lining up in the backfield and the slot that will help his value.
Blackshear is what the NFL will refer to as an “air back.” No, that’s not an official position, but it’s the perfect position name for versatile backs who can line up in the backfield and make an impact in the passing game. And “air backs” are on every team in the NFL, with some better than others. Some recent examples of “air backs” were Darren Sproles, one of the best ever as a versatile back, Chris Thompson, Tarik Cohen and J.D. McKissic.
We often complained about Blackshear’s misuse in Virginia Tech’s offense under Brad Cornelsen. It was criminal. Blackshear could’ve been special if adequately used. Remember, the Hokies had him and Khalil Herbert in 2020 and utilized Blackshear as a backup running back instead of an offensive weapon. Genius.
We are rooting for Raheem to have a long and prosperous NFL career.
Also in action on Saturday were three other Hokies in the Tropical Bowl: kicker John Parker Romo, safety Tae Daley and wide receiver Changa Hodge. Romo was named special-teams MVP in the Tropical Bowl and looks like the next NFL kicker from Virginia Tech, joining Joey Slye and Brian Johnson — both on Washington’s roster.
I said yesterday this kids foot just hits the ball “different”!— CalvaryWarriorsHC (@WarriorsFB_HC) January 14, 2022
Today he comes out and kicks a 61 yarder in front of 20+ NFL teams! John Parker Romo of Virginia Tech will be kicking on Sundays! @HokiesFBall @TropicalBowlUSA @Romo_HKA #TakeABag pic.twitter.com/4JXIVxfzDZ
Good luck to ALL of these Hokies in their quests to make it to the NFL.