On Jan. 15, college football all-stars from around the globe played in the 52nd edition of the Hula Bowl. Normally hosted in Hawaii, the Hula Bowl made its way to Orlando, Florida for the first time. The game was headlined by former UCF and Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton, and featured over 100 draft eligible prospects.
The teams were led by former NFL coaches Brian Billick and Mike Smith, and accompanied by a host of experienced assistants including legendary defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. The staff had a combined total of 279 years of NFL coaching experience.
All 32-NFL teams had representatives at the Hula Bowl, including two GM’s. Most teams had members of their scouting department on hand who were able to interview prospects face-to-face during the Hula Bowl’s allotted interview time. Representatives from the CFL, XFL, USFL, and Arena Football were also on hand.
— Hula Bowl (@Hula_Bowl) January 16, 2022
The Hula Bowl featured six talented quarterbacks who each made positive and negative plays during the game. The nature of a college all-star game, which allows for roughly one week of practice, is particularly evident in quarterback play. Between botched snaps, turnovers, and missed throws, it was clear each QB was in a different environment than their last start.
Six-foot-seven inch, 248 lbs quarterback Cole Kelley had buzz around him throughout the week. His stature obviously jumps off the charts, but he has the arm talent to make any throw on the field, and functional athletic ability for his size. Kelley won the Walter Payton award at Southeastern Louisiana after transferring from Arkansas.
Former Louisiana Lafayette quarterback Levi Lewis went 34-5 during his legendary college career. The lefty quarterback is an electric playmaker who has been compared to the likes of Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson at the next level.
Former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski broadcasted the Hula Bowl on CBS Sports Network. During the week leading up to the game, Jaws spent time watching film and breaking down defenses with Lewis.
Love that Jaworski is giving Levi Lewis his props. There’s a place for him in the #NFl and if not, other leagues, but definitely is a pro QB.
As I’ve always said, dude is a point guard passer w/skills. #HulaBowl
— Emory Hunt (@FBallGameplan) January 15, 2022
The Hula Bowl featured Philadelphia native and former Virginia Tech & Rutgers running back Raheem Blackshear. Blackshear is a tough physical runner who had an impressive week and scored a 1-yard touchdown during the game. Blackshear attended Archbishop Wood and was teammates with Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts.
Another former teammate of Blackshear, Isaih Pacheco of Rutgers attended the Hula Bowl as well. Pacheco and Blackshear were Rutgers’ running back duo in 2019 before Blackshear transferred to Virginia Tech. Both players received attention from NFL scouts during the week. Pacheco is from Vineland, New Jersey.
Villanova cornerback Christian Benford attended the Hula Bowl after a seven-interception season during the Wildcats FCS postseason run. Benford reunited with his former Villanova teammate offensive guard Paul Grattan Jr. Grattan was a three-year starter at Villanova before transferring and starting at guard for Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins.
— Paul Grattan (@Grattan65) January 16, 2022
Following the most recent game, the Hula Bowl has been played just three times after taking a hiatus in 2008. Each year the game has improved on and off the field and the Hula Bowl has solidified themselves as an important fixture in the pre-draft process.
The Hula Bowl had 37-players sign UDFA contracts in the NFL after the 2021 NFL Draft. Eagles fourth-round cornerback selection Zech McPherson played in last year’s Hula Bowl, as well as Raiders fifth-round pick Nate Hobbs. Two additional players were drafted in the seventh-round.
The Hula Bowl will return to Florida next winter after the college football season. For now, the game’s scouting department from NFL Draft Diamonds will wait to see how many members of the 2022 class will make it to the NFL and other professional leagues.