MOBILE, Ala. – With Senior Bowl practices beginning Tuesday, we conducted a virtual roundtable discussion with the four players the Bears drafted last year who participated in the annual college all-star game in 2022.
LM: How would you describe your experience at last year's Senior Bowl?
Velus: "It was quite the experience. Being a kid from Mobile, Ala., it was always a dream of mine. I found it vibrant. Everybody came with their best foot forward, and the competition level was crazy. There were a lot of good players in our class. It was really an electric environment."
Braxton: "I hadn't been to a lot of places where there's a lot of exposure and there's people right there watching you, watching one-on-ones. That was a little different for me coming from a small school. That could have been a little nerve-wracking, but I went into it with a good mindset. I went into every meeting super positive with high energy because it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And now that I'm done with it and I'm done with my first year, it feels good to have gone through all that. It was a great experience."
Dominique: "It was fun. The football part was probably the easiest thing throughout the week. We were busy with meetings and different things every day. It wasn't that I didn't think I could compete. But I was a mid-major guy, so being able to go against the 'Bamas and the Georgias and those type of caliber teams and seeing, 'Oh, I'm hanging with these guys, I'm almost doing better than these dudes,' it gave me confidence."
LM: What was your objective heading to the Senior Bowl?
Velus: "My goal was to go there and don't overthink anything; just go out there and show these scouts and these people who you are on the field and what you can do."
Braxton: "I just wanted to be positive and be as upfront and honest as I could about myself. And when everybody's complaining, I'm not complaining. Obviously, it's going to be a high stress environment. People are going to be under a lot of pressure. I just took that as a time to relax and kind of own it."
Dominique: "My objective was to show that I could play D-end. I had worked out with my D-line coach, and we watched film on a lot of guys. I watched film on Braxton throughout the process and I just wanted to show I could play football at a high level."
Ja'Tyre: "I went to the Senior Bowl to answer questions that were being asked and I felt like I lived up to the occasion."
LM: How do you think your performance at the Senior Bowl impacted your draft status?
Velus: "I feel like I really helped myself out in the draft, when it came to the one-on-ones and also performing in the game."
Dominique: "I think the Senior Bowl helped me out a lot because a lot of things that came up [during the pre-draft process] was that I didn't go against a lot of iconic guys in the MAC. So being able to go against a bunch of [top prospects] and win some one-on-ones was really big for me."
LM: What was your highlight of the week?
Velus: "The highlight of my week was competing at practice—and also the social and free time. The players got to interact with each other, especially at the Mardi Gras parade. That was really fun. Me being from Mobile, [going to the parade] is something I've done my whole life. Everybody got to experience the Mobile culture. That was pretty cool."
Dominique: "Off the field, it was the interviews. I'm good at talking and I don't have anything to hide. So being able to show the coaches I'm very smart with memorizing things and being able to show them I can recall a lot of things I've done and what we did and what you could possibly want me to do was big for me."
Ja'Tyre: "The highlight of my week was being off the field with those guys, getting to know those people. They were a great group of guys, funny, who really love the game of football."
LM: What advice would you give the prospects in this year's Senior Bowl?
Velus: "In your interviews, have a conversation about who you are and your journey. Be yourself; that's what makes you special because there's only one you. In practice, just go out there and do what you've been doing. It's easy to get caught up in the tension with all the scouts watching. But just trust in yourself and go out there with all the confidence and have fun."
Braxton: "Focus in the meetings, try to learn and be yourself, too. Get to know your coach a little bit. Maybe get like 30 or 40 seconds to the side with him and ask him what he's looking for. That's how you create good bonds with people. That's how you look fully engaged. In terms of the on-the-field stuff, go full force the whole time and take everything seriously."
Dominique: "Just know that you're going to be busy. Take care of your body as much as possible because you're not going to get much sleep with everything that's going on."
Ja'Tyre: "Just go out there and have fun. Football is just going to be football. Get into your playbook when they give it to you and be ready when your number's called."