Former Auburn wide receiver Tony Stevens wants to leave a positive impression on the 300-plus NFL scouts and agents watching him this week.
With all four practices in the books for Saturday’s East-West Shrine game, Stevens is optimistic he’s given the attentive audience reason enough to put him on their respective draft boards this spring.
“I’m very pleased with how I’ve been doing out here,” Stevens said in a phone interview Thursday. “I think I got after it in 1-on-1s, 7-on-7s and team drills. I think I’ve been able to show what I can do.”
The Shrine game is an important showcase for NFL hopefuls.
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Seventy players who played in last year’s annual exhibition game made NFL rosters. It’s also a chance for players to receive NFL coaching with the league supplying the staffs for both teams.
Stevens is on the East roster alongside former teammate Alex Kozan. The Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles all are represented on the East’s coaching staff.
Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach Brentson Buckner is the team’s designated head coach.
Stevens has spent much of his time away from the practice field this week visiting with “tons of (NFL) teams.” The wide receiver doesn’t have a clear idea of his chances of being drafted in April, but he’s encouraged by the feedback he’s received.
“They were like ‘I got great size, I can run, great hands — big and athletic,’ ” Stevens said. “I was just happy to talk with them.”
Draft Analyst’s Tony Pauline spent the week in Florida watching both rosters practice.
Pauline shared plenty of positive notes about Stevens’ performance ultimately identifying the wide receiver as a potential diamond in the rough.
“The bottom line on Stevens is this; he has the tools and ability to play on Sunday, but I question whether he likes the physical contact of the sport,” Pauline said. “If the light goes on, someone is going to get a steal.”
While Stevens’ résumé doesn’t exactly jump off the page, most NFL talks downplayed his lack of production.
“Not really,” Stevens said when asked if it NFL teams were worried. “They knew my situation at Auburn. Most of them said I didn’t have a quarterback to get me the ball.”
Stevens had 31 catches for 487 yards with three touchdowns — leading the team in all three categories — in 11 games as a senior. He had standout performances against ULM (four catches for a career-high 109 yards) and Texas A&M (career-high eight catches for 86 yards).
The receiver’s production suffered late in the season due to an undisclosed injury, which forced him to miss two games.
It was a disappointing finish, considering Stevens worked two-plus seasons to land a regular role in the offense.
The former 4-star prospect out of Evans High School in Florida was used sparingly as an underclassman (six catches, 90 yards). Stevens’ role increased after Duke Williams was kicked off the team midway through last season.
As a senior, the coaching staff praised Stevens’ progress as he became quarterback Sean White’s go-to receiver.
“He’s improved,” former Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. “He’s more consistent.”
Stevens doesn’t have any regrets about his career’s bumpy road two weeks removed from leaving the Plains.
“I enjoyed this season,” Stevens said. “I did what I could do for the team to help the team win, whenever my number was called I tried to make the most of it. I learned a lot at Auburn. They were really good to me.”
The feeling of unfinished business has motivated Stevens as he gets ready to return to the Tampa Bay area to train.
Stevens is confident he will “light it up” at the NFL Combine next month to give his draft stock an added boost.
“I’m just hungry to show what I can do, I can do a lot of things and I don’t think people know that yet,” Stevens said. “I’m going to let them know.”