MOBILE, Ala. — It’ll be three months or longer before we know just how good of a week the Bears had at the Senior Bowl. But John Fox and his coaching staff at least impressed the players who were trying to impress them.
“I loved it. They were great. Coach Fox is unbelievable,” said East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones, who had six receptions for 68 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown for Fox’s North team in a 16-15 loss to the South at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “My wide receiver coach [Curtis] Johnson and [offensive assistant] Ben [McDaniels], they’re two phenomenal guys that I feel like I learned and improved my game just in three or four days. Really proud [of] the Bears’ organization.”
Fox’s North team scored a late touchdown on Nate Peterman’s six-yard pass to Jones with 1:51 left. Fox went for the win, but Peterman was under pressure immediately on a roll-out and his pass for Jones in the end zone was intercepted.
But winning and losing was an afterthought this week.
“I’d rather coach it — other than qualify for it — than [watch] it,” Fox said. “It was a great experience being in the meeting rooms, being around the guys, getting to know them. It gives you tremendous insight.”
That insight is supposed to be a big advantage for the Bears, who coached the North team and spent one day in meetings with the South team. The standouts in the game itself were there for everybody to see.
California quarterback Davis Webb was the game’s most valuable player. He was 11-for-16 for 165 yards, including an NFL-quality 39-yard touchdown pass to Texas A&M wide receiver Josh Reynolds (six receptions, 96 yards).
Toledo running back Kareem Hunt was the North’s outstanding player, rushing for 118 yards on 15 carries, including a 43-yard gain. Kansas State defensive end Jordan Willis, who had two sacks and two forced fumbles, was the South’s outstanding player.
“The Bears have some great coaches,” Hunt said. “They definitely showed me some great knowledge, especially in the pass [protection] game. They taught me a new way how to keep my head up and just be strong in there.”
For some, it was a chance to prove they deserved to be here. North safety Lorenzo Jerome, who played for former Bears guard Chris Villarrial at Saint Francis University of Loretto, Pennsylvania, had two interceptions, a tackle for loss and a forced fumble.
But Jones might have helped himself as much as anybody. The 6-2, 202-pound wide receiver not only had the late touchdown that gave the North a chance to win, but he also had two apparent touchdowns that didn’t count but didn’t go unnoticed. He made a terrific catch of a Peterman overthrow in the back of the end zone but only was able to get one foot in bounds. He also caught a 43-yard touchdown pass from Iowa’s C.J. Beathard that was nullified by a penalty.
“I feel the same [as I did before] because I believe I’ve had this in me all along,” Jones said. “It just took for people to see it. It may have solidified [my draft status] to other people. But not to me. I knew I could play.”
Jones said he plans to make the most of what he learned from Fox’s coaching staff.
“There’s a lot they taught me, but I’m going to keep that under wraps,” Jones said with a wink. “I’m excited to use that in the future at the [scouting] combine and at the next level.”
Jones is projected as a third-round pick. For now.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be up to the [NFL teams],” Jones said. “Everyone has their job to do. I think I did mine.”
Follow me on Twitter @MarkPotash.