By STEVEN HERBERT
City News Service
CARSON — Terrell Watson of Azusa Pacific ran for a game-high 55 yards on nine carries, scored the first touchdown and was selected as the MVP as Team National defeated Team American, 17-0, in the fourth annual NFLPA Collegiate Bowl Saturday at StubHub Center.
Watson scored on the game’s opening possession, recovering a fumble by teammate Jameill Showers, a UTEP quarterback, and running two yards for the touchdown, completing a 12-play, 78-yard drive.
“He belongs,” said former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz, who coached Team National. “Somebody in this league is going to get a terrific player.”
Watson, from Oxnard, was the leading rusher across all divisions of NCAA football in 2014, averaging 195.7 yards per game. His 2,153 yards were the most in Division II and Great Northwest Athletic Conference and school records. Watson completed his career with the Cougars with 25 conference records and 21 school records.
Channing Fugate of Eastern Kentucky scored the game’s other touchdown on a one-yard run in the third quarter, immediately after South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge completed 12- and 19-yard passes.
Jeremiah Detmer of Toldeo kicked a 33-yard field goal for the National team for the second quarter’s only points.
Cole Stoudt, the MVP of 15th-ranked Clemson’s 40-6 victory over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl and a son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, completed seven of eight passes for 48 yards for Team American.
Teammate Rakeem Cato, who quarterbacked Marshall to a 13-1 record and No. 23 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, completed five of 10 passes for 31 yards.
Bridge was three-for-five for a game-high 51 yards. Showers was three-for-nine for 29 yards.
Team American was coached by Mike Holmgren, who coached the Green Bay Packers to a victory in Super Bowl XXXI in 1997.
“It was fun for me to be able to be here and deal with young people again and not only teach them a little bit about football, but hopefully teach them a little bit about what to expect later on,” said Holmgren, whose final NFL coaching stint came with the Seattle Seahawks from 1999-2008.
The NFL Players Association conducts the game in an attempt to introduce its more than 100 players to the association and business of the NFL, said George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs of the union representing the league’s players.
“It’s important for us to reach out to our future members,” Atallah said.
In the week leading up to the game, the players attended presentations from current and former players, union officials and others on topics including life skills, money management, the business of football, media and personal security.
Watson said he learned “a lot” about “the NFL life outside of football, what to look out for, how to handle your money when you have a lot of money, who to keep in and out of your circle.”
All 32 NFL teams had representatives at the practices leading up to the game, with 200 scouts, coaches and executives in attendance, according to Carl Francis, the NFLPA’s director of communications.
Among the players who played in last year’s NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, 14 were chosen in the NFL draft, another 63 signed as free agents, and 43 were on opening day rosters or practice squads, Francis told City News Service.
The game’s biggest success stories include quarterback Connor Shaw, who was the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback at the conclusion of the 2014 season, Johnson Bademosi, a safety with the Browns, and Marquette King, the Oakland Raiders punter for the past two seasons, Francis said.
Team National has won all four years. It was coached by Dick Vermeil for the first three years, coincidentally Martz’s predecessor with the St. Louis Rams.