The East-West Shrine Bowl’s rich QB history should excite future NFL draft passers | Opinion

A rich history of showcasing successful signal-callers should make the East-West Shrine Bowl an alluring destination for NFL draft QB prospects.

As the longest-running college football all-star game, the East-West Shrine Bowl has played a pivotal role in helping elevate the draft stock of players across all positions and from a plethora of backgrounds.

Nowhere is this more apparent than at the most important position in all of sports — quarterback. The Shrine Bowl has hosted some of the greatest passers in the game. That rich QB history should excite future NFL draft passing prospects.

The East-West Shrine Bowl’s rich QB history

Although the East-West Shrine Bowl is the longest-running college football all-star game and a permanent fixture on the NFL draft calendar, it has slid under the radar in recent years in terms of the importance of the event uncovering the upper echelon of talent for the NFL. Under the stewardship of Eric Galko, the Shrine Bowl has a mission statement to deliver a “best-in-class” event.

Historically, the Shrine Bowl has played host to the very best QBs in the NFL draft. Amongst the game’s alumni and residing in the Shrine Bowl Hall of Fame are Super Bowl champions, NFL MVPs, record setters, and surefire Pro Football Hall of Fame candidates. This combination of historical success and exciting plans for the future of the game should inspire the top QBs in upcoming NFL draft classes to shoot for a spot on a Shrine Bowl roster.

Who is the most famous Shrine Bowl QB alum?

But, who are these historical success stories that should inspire confidence in the East-West Shrine Bowl? Well, they start with the very best to do it, the contentious greatest of all time — Tom Brady. Following a senior season with Michigan where he threw for 2,217 yards with 16 touchdowns and just six interceptions, the seven-time Super Bowl champion lined up for the East team led by a staff featuring Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban.

Sporting the No. 10 jersey, the 6’5″, 210-pound senior threw a TD in the game, ensuring his sixth-round selection in the 2000 NFL Draft. The rest, as they say, is history. Multiple MVPs, Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and NFL records later, Brady is the most famous East-West Shrine Bowl alumni that there is.

Dan Pastorini credits the Shrine Bowl for his first-round selection

Brady’s success is an outlier, as sixth-round selections don’t typically make the level of impact on the game that he has. Additionally, can you attribute the success of a late Day 3 selection to the Shrine Bowl? Perhaps not.

However, when you consider the first-round selections of John Elway, Doug Williams, Joe Flacco, Joey Harrington, and several others, the ability of the game to breed success and elevate players to the upper echelon of the NFL draft is clear.

Don’t believe us? Consider the words of East-West Shrine Bowl Hall of Famer, Dan Pastorini.

“I would never have been selected as the third pick in the first round of the NFL Draft if it weren’t for the opportunity to play in the Shrine Bowl.”

The former Santa Clara college standout went on to have a 13-year NFL career after being selected by the Houston Oilers with the third overall pick in 1971. Pastorini earned Pro Bowl recognition and resides in the Houston Sports Hall of Fame. Like Brady, Elway, and several other standout signal-callers, Pastorini went from playing in the Shrine Bowl to winning a Super Bowl (albeit as Jim Plunkett’s backup with the then-Oakland Raiders).

Small-school players have greatly benefited

The Shrine Bowl has prided itself in helping smaller-school players elevate their NFL draft spotlight. Flacco from Delaware is a success story in that respect, elevating himself during the process into a first-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Similarly, former Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo capitalized on a standout performance in the Shrine Bowl to earn himself a second-round selection by the New England Patriots.

Garoppolo is a perfect example of how the Shrine Bowl elevates smaller-school prospects. Despite winning the Walter Payton Award as the most outstanding player at the FCS level, and throwing for 5,050 passing yards and 53 touchdowns, he wasn’t a household name prior to the 2014 NFL Draft. Yet, after impressing during the week of practice, the now-San Francisco 49ers QB completed 75% of his passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in the game.

Garoppolo caught the eyes of NFL evaluators such as Daniel Jeremiah, who while lauding his “quick feet,” “lightning quick-release,” and “accuracy to all three levels,” described him as the biggest winner from the Shrine Bowl.

Meanwhile, Garoppolo succinctly summed up to reporters the importance of the Shrine Bowl in the evaluation process saying: “Out here, it’s just about the competition. Whether you’re at a small school or a big school, you still have to show you can get the job done.”

The East-West Shrine Bowl is a great spot for quarterbacks looking to elevate their stock

Amongst the backdrop of historical success, the competition level at the East-West Shrine Bowl is once again on the rise. Galko’s mission to have the Shrine Bowl compete as a “best-in-class” event — beginning with a transfer in location from St. Petersburg to Las Vegas — produced the most successful NFL draft class in over a decade.

In addition to 45 players selected who participated in the 2022 Shrine Bowl, Baylor WR Tyquan Thornton ensured the all-star game’s highest draftee since Garoppolo in 2014.

While you can’t realistically determine NFL success of the 2022 draft class for another three to four years, the Shrine Bowl quarterback class made some significant strides in April. Iowa State’s Brock Purdy and Kansas State QB Skylar Thompson were both selected, despite undraftable grades by multiple analysts prior to their Shrine Bowl appearances. Fellow alumni, Jack Coan and Dustin Crum, both head into the preseason on NFL rosters.

With the recent announcement that the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl will be the only all-star game to feature full NFL coaching staffs, the event has never been more appetizing for NFL draft QB prospects wanting to elevate their stock.

Further anticipated revolutions will only heighten the excitement and allure of the game as a must-attend fixture on the calendar. When you combine future potential with a rich quarterback history, you have an exciting and entertaining breeding ground for the next great NFL quarterbacks.

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