Five Golden Eagles enjoy postseason showcases
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- This year's Southern Miss football team may have played its latest bowl game since 2003, but for Ito Smith, Allenzae Staggers, Tarvarius Moore, Xavier Thigpen and Draper Riley, the opportunities still came for the next month to prove their case for a pro career.
Smith, who finished his career as the program's all-time leader in all-purpose yards, is the first Golden Eagle to compete in the Reese's Senior Bowl since Jamie Collins in 2013. The entire week has been filled with intense practices featuring NFL team and league personnel evaluating potential draft picks. Smith has turned a few heads so far for his catching and top-speed abilities. Taking part in the event also carries some emotional meaning for Smith, as a Mobile native who grew up attending the game regularly.
The Senior Bowl will air at 1:30 p.m. CT on NFL Network.
Moore and Thigpen both took part in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl inside the Rose Bowl last Saturday, Jan. 20. Moore posted four solo tackles while Thigpen added an assisted stop. Moore finished his career as a 2017 Pro Football Focus first-team All-American based on analytics throughout the season. Thigpen was also a second-team All-Conference honoree.
Riley headed to Dallas early in January for the fourth annual College Gridiron Showcase and Symposium, a five-day practice routine in front of pro scouts. Since 2015, 273 attendees at the showcase have been drafted, signed into free agency or given tryout opportunities by NFL and CFL teams. Riley had 33 tackles last year as a defensive tackle and was named Honorable Mention All-C-USA.
Staggers competed in the Spiral Tropical Bowl in Daytona Beach, Fla. as a wide receiver and punt returner. The speedster was electric in his two years as a Golden Eagle, posting a pair 200-yard receiving games against Rice and UL Lafayette. He also returned a punt for a score in his first home game. This year, he was second on the team in catches (44), yards (476) and touchdowns (5), including two scores in the 28-27 win at Marshall to close the regular season.
All-Star game participants from the 2016 team included Nick Mullens and Cameron Tom at the East-West Shrine Bowl.