Raleigh Roundtree's NFL publicity campaign begins today.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pound offensive tackle, who prepped at Josey High and just completed his senior season at South Carolina State, will play in today's Blue-Gray All-Star Game at Montgomery, Ala., (noon, Channel 6) and the Jan. 18 Senior Bowl at Mobile, Ala. (2:30 p.m., TBS).
Both games draw national television interest and a slew of NFL scouts. South Carolina coach Brad Scott will guide Roundtree, a Division I-AA All-American, in today's game. Another Augusta player, Laney product Jermaine Smith, who played defensive line at Georgia, will play for the Gray today.
"I thought a lot of this was in the cards because I was playing pretty well," Roundtree said. "It's still pretty exciting to hear it."
South Carolina State coach Willie Jeffries has seen many players move from the Division I-AA program - which won the MEAC title and the Heritage Bowl two years ago - to the pros, including defensive lineman Robert Porcher of the Detroit Lions and Anthony Cook of the Houston Oilers.
Roundtree is the best offensive line prospect from the Orangeburg, S.C., school since Martinez resident Edwin Bailey, now a NFL scout, played 12 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.
Jeffries thinks Roundtree is a can't-miss prospect who can plug a line against rabid rushing linebackers and blow open holes for swift runners to fill.
"Some say they want him to have more of a killer instinct," Jeffries said. "But he's so fluid in his play, he gets the job done easily."
Jeffries said Roundtree missed qualifying academically at North Carolina A&T five years ago and was redshirted after enrolling at South Carolina State. That gave him time to find his footing in the classroom as well as the practice field.
"I was fortunate enough to win a championship here a couple of years ago," Roundtree said. "I don't regret any time I spent here."
While of the players at today's game looked forward to the challenge of learning a new playbook. Beau Morgan was the only one who had to master a new position as well.
Morgan, the quarterback for option-oriented Air Force, is expected to play tailback on the Blue squad today.
The senior knows the risk he took simply by accepting the invitation to come to the game and play out of position. If he fails, he could be seen as just another option quarterback who will have trouble adjusting to a new system in the pros.
On the other hand, if he breaks a couple of good runs and shows he can catch the ball, he could leave Montgomery being touted as the next Kordell Stewart, the former Colorado star who currently lines up at quarterback and wide receiver for the Steelers.
"That's a relevant comparison," Morgan said. "I see myself as a utility kind of guy, someone who can play a couple of positions. I know I don't have as much experience at the other positions, but that just comes with being on the field."
Morgan is only 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, but his statistics show that lack of size hasn't hindered him much. He racked up 1,498 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns this season, including 183 yards in Air Force's biggest win of the year against Notre Dame.
After that game, Fighting Irish coach Lou Holtz called Morgan one of the most exciting players he had ever seen.
Morgan also threw for 1,210 yards to become the first player to top 1,000 yards in rushing and passing in two seasons. He has 3,379 career yards rushing, another 3,248 passing and is only the second player in NCAA history to gain more than 3,000 career yards in both categories.
"Basically, whenever we played him, I was nervous and we were scared to death," said San Diego State coach Ted Tollner, who will lead the Blue squad. "I can't imagine a better option quarterback. Not only does he make good decisions, but he's a great running back at quarterback."
Morgan said he could also line up at receiver if asked and that he'd love a shot at throwing a couple of passes. But in a game where every play is an NFL audition, Morgan isn't counting on taking too many snaps away from Oregon's Tony Graziani and Fresno State's Jim Arrelanes, the Blue quarterbacks who were invited to play at their true positions.
"I'll just look at it as a good chance for me to learn a few different skills, I guess," Morgan said. "My object this week is to try to show that I can handle whatever they give me."
Morgan said he may be a bit more marketable to the pros because the Air Force has recently relaxed its policy regarding the five-year military commitment all students sign before entering the academy.
For example, the Air Force is allowing linebacker Steve Russ, a seventh-round pick by Denver in 1995, to play with the Broncos next season. They did the same with current Dallas defensive lineman Chad Hennings, who was picked in the 11th round of the 1988 draft.
Morgan said he hopes a team will use a low-round choice on him, so he will have the chance to come in and surprise everyone a few years down the road.
"I've still got a few goals left in my football career, and the NFL is included in that," Morgan said. "I'd like to go out at this game and at the (Jan. 19) Hula Bowl, give it a shot and see if some of those teams don't like what they see."
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