Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone (72) faces off against Wisconsin defensive end Matt Shaughnessy during the East squad Shrine Game practice on Monday.
Practices for the 84th Annual East-West Shrine Game, which will be played at Robertson Stadium in Houston on Jan. 17, began Monday at the Texans' Methodist Training Center.
Texans coach Gary Kubiak and Texans assistant coaches, scouts and executives made the short walk across the street from Reliant Stadium to survey the college talent on the outdoor practice fields. They were joined by dozens of scouts and other personnel from around the NFL, as well as a few Texans players in attendance.
The Shrine Game features many of the best college players in the nation and raises money for Shriners Hospitals for Children, an international health care system of 22 hospitals across North America. More draft-worthy NFL talent has flocked to the Shrine Game in 2009 with the apparent dissolution of the Hula Bowl, a 62-year-old college all-star game in Hawaii that was not scheduled this year.
Among the marquee names on the Shrine's West squad are wide receiver Jarett Dillard (Rice), guard Cedric Dockery (Texas), safety Kevin Ellison and linebacker Kaluka Maiava (USC), running back Ian Johnson (Boise State), running back Jorvorskie Lane and quarterback Stephen McGee (Texas A&M) and safety Darcel McBath (Texas Tech).
"Today was great," said Johnson, the Western Athletic Conference career leader with 58 rushing touchdowns. "(It was) a bunch of guys getting together who haven't played football in a while, and you could tell after the first couple of plays. But once we got going, you could tell there's just nothing but talent here, and it's so amazing to be with this group of guys."
Dillard, who like Johnson played out of the national spotlight in a non-BCS conference, is looking forward to the weeklong opportunity to impress scouts.
"You've got to do the unthinkable," he said. "You've got to do the unbelievable, and that's what I'm going to try to do every practice I step on this field."
The East squad includes quarterback Chase Daniel (Missouri), offensive tackle Alex Boone (Ohio State), defensive tackle Ron Brace (Boston College), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (South Carolina), defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (Wisconsin) and defensive tackle Terrance Taylor (Michigan).
Daniel threw for more than 4,300 yards in back-to-back seasons at Missouri, but the quarterback has been called undersized at 6-0, 225.
"I think my leadership qualities are definitely something that (scouts) are going to look at or I want them to look at, and I win," said Daniel, who led the Tigers to a 30-11 record from 2006-08 and guided Southlake Carroll (Dallas) High School to a No. 1 national ranking in 2004. "Hopefully they see that I'm a winner, and hopefully I bring that to an organization."
Texans first-round draft pick Duane Brown played in the Shrine Game in 2008. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones, then a little-known commodity from Lane College, played in the 2007 Shrine Game before being drafted by the Texans in the third round that year.
Two decorated NFL and college coaches will lead the teams this year: Bobby Ross (East) and Gene Stallings (West). Stallings coached in the NFL for 18 years and won a national championship in 1992 as the head coach at the University of Alabama. Ross was an NFL head coach for 10 years, leading the San Diego Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX, and spent seasons in the 17 college ranks.
Notes: Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson, tackle Eric Winston, guard Scott Jackson and former Texans guard/center Steve McKinney were spotted on the sidelines…Texans coaches seen at practice on Monday: offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, senior defensive assistant Frank Bush, offensive line coach John Benton, running backs coach Chick Harris, linebackers coach Johnny Holland, wide receivers coach Larry Kirksey, assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack, assistant defensive backs coach Ray Rhodes, defensive assistant Perry Carter and defensive assistant Robert Saleh...the day began with a weigh-in at a downtown hotel in front of what some players estimated to be 300 representatives from NFL teams…the week's practice schedule is posted here on the official website of the East-West Shrine Game.