MOBILE, Ala. — In high school, K.J. Maye and friends waited for the bell to sound, then made a quick trip to Ladd-Peebles Stadium to watch Senior Bowl practices.
Maye has returned to his hometown as one of more than 110 prospects for this year's Reese's Senior Bowl, Maye has been able to take the field where he watched practices while optimistically thinking about his future.
"My school was only five minutes away, so we got there and watched everything because we talked about how we wanted to be in that position," Maye said. "Now it's a reality."
Maye graduated from Murphy High School, the same alma mater as Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and Reese's Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage.
Maye expects to have a little more homecookin' — beyond the Gulf Coast fish, shrimp, gumbo and jambalaya — on Saturday.
"It's a huge honor to be able to come back to my hometown and play in this prestigious game," Maye said. "I have a lot of family and friends that's going to be there, people I went to school with, people that's been supporting me since I was a little kid."
Maye and former University of Minnesota cornerback Eric Murray, accepted invitations thinking it would be their last time to play as college teammates one last time, but Maye was switched to the South team, while Murray remained on the North team.
Now, they could line up against each other. It will be the first time for their eyes to stare across at the other in a game, but they have plenty of previous competition against each other at Gophers practices.
"We compete all the time in practice, so it will be a friendly competition, but since he's on the South, it won't be as friendly," Murray said.
Murray, who is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Maye agreed about how much they enjoyed their time in Minnesota.
"I love Minnesota. It was the best four years of my life," Murray said.
Mayer said he needed to adjust to colder temperatures "and look at the bright side, the things that Minnesota has to offer. That transition was kind of rough at first but it smoothed out quickly. You had to change the way you viewed it."
Both were able to make plays at Thursday's practices. Murray had a pass breakup in the end zone on the final red zone pass of the North's practice. Maye also did well when the South was doing its red zone offense, making a diving catch at the goal line. He later hustled toward the end zone through contact that was allowed to a degree and stretched the ball across the goal line.
How might they fare Saturday?
"I'm sure we'll see each other in the game, and we'll see how that goes. It might be a lot of smack talking to make it fun," Maye said. "Guys rotate a lot. I tell coach [Minnesota native Gus Bradley] I want to go against Eric one last time for the whole state of Minnesota."