Eight alumni of USA Football’s U.S. Tackle National Team program participated in All-Star events over the past two months. The events included the Hula Bowl, Senior Bowl, and Shrine Bowl, all of which provide elite senior draft prospects with environments to showcase their skills against top competition. There are also opportunities to connect with NFL coaches and front office personnel.
Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents (2018 U-19) and Oklahoma State defensive lineman Tyler Lacy (2018 U-19) participated in the Senior Bowl and were quick to point each other out as former U.S. National Team teammates. Lacy also named his former college quarterback Spencer Sanders and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah as U.S. National Team alumni he remembers playing alongside.
“My favorite experience with the U.S. National Team was giving back to the charity we went to,” Lacy recalled. “We had an opportunity to help and play with a few kids. I also met a lot of friends straight out of high school into college. We all kept in touch with each other. I still talk to them to this day. It was a great experience.”
The 2018 U.S. U-19 Tackle National Team soundly defeated Team Canada 47-7 in International Bowl IX at AT&T Stadium. Lacy played a leading role in the victory, amassing two sacks and two tackles for loss.
“The U.S. National Team prepared me well for college,” said Lacy. “When you’re first getting together as a team, you get to know people you previously didn’t, and you’ve just got to take one for the team and build chemistry. When the chemistry is up, everybody plays well, everybody communicates well and everybody celebrates. When we played versus Canada, everybody was celebrating with each other.”
Lacy and his defensive teammates on the Senior Bowl National Team roster showed their ability to put egos aside and build chemistry quickly. They were only teammates for a week, but the defenders celebrated and supported each other with the class of a veteran squad.
“The energy is there. Everybody is scrappy and everybody wants the best for each other,” Lacy explained. “Before a drill even starts, we’re dapping each other up saying, ‘Let’s go, let’s go! This is our drill. Let’s go get some money.’”
Brents showcased himself well during the Senior Bowl’s practice sessions as a member of the American Team roster. The All-Big 12 cornerback walked away as one of the event’s winners because of his high-level play and competitive mentality.
“I feel like I’m the standard. I just want to go against the best,” Brents said. “That’s my type of mentality. That’s the tradition of how it is at the Reese’s Senior Bowl. You’re going to see the best of the best. Just being the corner I am, I ultimately want to compete.”
“I feel like you can turn the film on, and it will speak for itself. Just coming out here, people being able to get their eyes on me is important,” Brents added. “[They] See the way I move firsthand and how I mingle with my guys. [They see] I’m somebody you want to be a locker room leader.”
Maryland wide receiver Jacob Copeland (2018 U-19), Florida safety Trey Dean III (2018 U-19), Washington guard Jaxson Kirkland (2017 U-19), Michigan tight end Luke Schoonmaker (2018 U-19) and Utah running back Tavion Thomas (2018 U-19) accepted invites to the East-West Shrine Bowl. Dean was responsible for one of three interceptions that happened during the game.
Marshall running back Khalan Laborn (2017 U-19) was the lone U.S. Tackle National Team alumni to participate in the Hula Bowl. He led Team Aina in rushing yards with 32 on just five carries. Laborn spent the early part of his college career with Florida State before transferring to Marshall, where he rushed for 1,513 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2022.
Ten U.S. Tackle National Team alumni heard their names called in the 2022 NFL Draft, including linebacker Brian Asamoah, offensive lineman Spencer Burford, running back Hassan Haskins, tight end Trey McBride and quarterback Kenny Pickett. The 2023 NFL Draft, which begins April 27, should also feature a strong contingent of U.S. National Team alumni.