Feb. 7—Javon Bullard seems to make an impact just about everywhere he goes — Milledgeville, Athens, Atlanta, and even Mobile, Ala.
Bullard, a Baldwin High School alum who recently declared for the NFL Draft after playing three seasons at the University of Georgia, was one of nearly 140 draft-eligible players competing in the Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile last week. After a few days of practices, the defensive back was voted as best safety by his teammate running backs and wide receivers on the American squad.
The Senior Bowl is one of several college football "All-Star" games organized each year to give pro football scouts the opportunity to evaluate talent ahead of the upcoming draft. Invited players head down to Mobile and show their stuff in drills before the actual game. Athletes hope that by attending they can increase their draft stock and thus the dollar amount of their first NFL contract.
2024 was a first for the Senior Bowl in its 75 years. In the past, only seniors and juniors who have met their college's graduation requirements received invites, leaving the door closed to players like Bullard who declare early. A change was made this year though as it was reported roughly a dozen junior prospects were invited and accepted a spot.
Bullard was one of six Georgia Bulldogs on hand for the event, and wasn't the only one to receive a voted-upon honor. Wide receiver Ladd McConkey was selected as the American Team's best receiver as chosen by his defensive back teammates. Players vote for the awards for the position groups they go up against during practices. It's just as, if not more, important to do well in the practice sessions as it is to shine during the game itself. Seventy players per team is a lot, so it can be difficult to spread reps around once the Senior Bowl game begins.
While being chosen best safety is a feather in the young man's cap, it remains to be seen what effect it will have on Bullard's draft stock. Multiple projections have him going on the second day in either the second or third round. The picture could become clearer following the 2024 NFL Combine, which begins Feb. 29.
Should current projections hold and Bullard's name is called in the second or third round, he could become the highest-drafted football player from Milledgeville. Former Baldwin linebacker Leroy Hill holds that distinction now, having gone at the end of the third round (98th overall) to Seattle from Clemson in 2005.