MOBILE, Ala. — A year removed from trying to impress coaches from 32 teams at the Reese's Senior Bowl, Vikings tackle Austin Shepherd returned to Ladd-Peebles able to relax a little.
Shepherd attended Wednesday's practice where five of his former Crimson Tide teammates participated in their second of three practices in the lead up to Saturday's 67th annual college all-star game.
Shepherd, who is from Georgia and has a house in Alabama, said the return brought back a memory of "the stress of trying to please all these coaches, come out here and perform every day and trying to prove my worth and get drafted."
"I figured it would be a good time to support some of our guys," Shepherd added.
Shepherd was selected in the seventh round of the 2015 NFL Draft, joining fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings as participants in last year's game who were selected by the Vikings. He played on special teams, came in for Matt Kalil when the starting left tackle was injured during the Giants game and played as Minnesota's third tight end in the playoff game against Seattle when the Vikings were without Rhett Ellison.
Shepherd said maturity is probably where he gained the most ground in his rookie season and competing against Pro Bowler Everson Griffen helped considerably.
Griffen is one of five Vikings selections for Sunday's annual NFL all-star game, which "shows how good our team was," Shepherd said. (Click here to see results of the 2016 Pro Bowl draft).
As for the participants in Saturday's game, taking the field in their college helmets one final time, Shepherd said his advice is, "Try to soak it all in because you only do it once. You never know when it's your last play, so soak it all up."
Going the distance:Teammates noticed and watched as Duke kicker Ross Martin and Wake Forest punter/holder Alex Kinal kept stepping back. Martin crossed midfield as Kinal kneeled in the middle of the logo at mid-field. With a stiff wind at his back, Martin blasted it through the uprights from 60 yards during the South practice. The North team opted to have its field goal period with UCLA's Ka'imi Fairbairn connecting from 40-plus on his longest attempt.
Catches of the day: North team — San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin went deep down the field in a one-on-one drill against Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich. Ervin made one adjustment to the ball, then quickly executed another for a touchdown catch on a damp, windy day with multiple drops. South — Baylor receiver Jay Lee made one of the most impressive snares of the day, with one hand, but was out of bounds. Lee also, however, turned in a play that showed savvy when he worked his way back to the football to high point it and fend off Alabama cornerback Cyrus Jones.