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East-West Shrine Journal: Central Washington QB Mike Reilly

Mike Reilly, Quarterback, Central Washington University

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"The East West Shrine game is officially over and this will be my last write-up. It has been a pleasure sharing my experience and I hope that for anyone reading it gave a little more insight into what takes place during this week. Now for my take on the game.

During most of the game our offense was productive. We had a few drives in the first half that didn't go our way, including my first two drives, but we knew it would take a little time to get comfortable. The defense for our team stepped up and played a great game, I thought.

In the second half our team was trailing but we were able to string together a few nice drives and come away with some points. I got another chance to come into the game on the last drive and that was a great experience. Although the game had not started off how I had hoped it finished well. After putting together some good plays we found ourselves within scoring distance with 2 minutes left. Unfortunately, we were not able to punch it into the end zone, although we gave it a great try on the last 3 plays.

The East team came away with a deserved victory at the end of the game but I thought that the West could be proud with how we played. Now that this experience is over I will head home early tomorrow morning. Most of us will go back to train for the combine in late February. I will be doing the same, heading back to Elite Athletics in Westlake Village, California before heading to Indianapolis for the Combine to perform yet again for the scouts. It has been a great journey but it truly is only the beginning. Thanks for sharing this experience with me and wish me luck, as the road ahead is even longer!

Friday January 16, 2009

"The day before any football game is usually pretty basic. The groundwork and preparation for the game is taken care of Sunday through Thursday and Fridays are left mostly to keep the mind sharp. Today was no different. We spent an hour at the game field that we will be playing on tomorrow to take pictures and do a quick walk through. Other than that brief twenty minute session, football was left out of today's schedule.

The big event for the night was the players' banquet. All of the players in the game were introduced one at a time and presented with a very nice East-West Shrine Game watch. This is a keepsake that many of us will find special for years to come.

We were spoken to by various members of the Shriner's organization and given a history of how this all-star game has been connected to the Shriners for over 80 years. We were then served dinner and at the end of the meal came what I would consider the most memorable part of the night. We watched a 10-minute video that highlighted our Sunday experience when we visited the children's hospital. It was amazing to once again see how all of us players were able to have such an enjoyable time with all of the kids. It was a great opportunity for us to see how much of an impact that we were able to make, seeing the smiles on their faces and the laughter that was shared between all of us.

I felt that the timing of the video was great because it gave us all a sharp reminder of what this game stands for. We have all been working our tails off for the last five days to impress people with our football skills, but when we watched the video all of that seemed to disappear. For those of you out there that haven't heard this before there is a really great motto that is used to describe this game and it states: "Strong legs run so that weak legs can walk!" That is what this game is all about, and I along with all of my teammates are honored to be a part of this.

The banquet finished with 3 Hall of Fame inductees speaking to us. It was really neat to hear them all recount their time at this game and they all shared one thing in common; no one could remember the game. But they all remembered the hospital visit.

This has been a very interesting experience for me. There have been ups and downs, times of relaxation and times of great stress, being put under a microscope for all to see, and times behind closed doors of locker rooms and meeting rooms when we as players could joke around and have a great time with one another. I think it would be fair to say that I speak for all of the players here when I tell you that none of us have done this alone. We all have people in our lives that helped us get to where we are. In particular I would like to thank my family. My Dad, Mom, 2 brothers and sister have supported me when others didn't, stood in the background when I was in the spotlight and enjoyed my success with me, and in general have been absolutely amazing. I wouldn't be here without you guys. And of course my beautiful fiancé Jess. She is the most amazing person I have ever met and has been incredibly strong during a very difficult time. She wasn't able to make the trip out here but hopefully she can watch me on TV. I love you all so much.

Thank you again to everyone for following along with me and I hope you will either be able to make it to the game or at least tune in to ESPN 2 to watch us play. I look forward to a very exciting day tomorrow. God bless.

Thursday January 15, 2009

"Thursday has come and gone and the atmosphere here has changed considerably from the first three days. I spent the evening with my family at the Galleria mall and as we entered the hotel tonight the lobby was pretty much empty. I almost expected to see a tumbleweed blow across the hallway because it really was that much of a change from the circus that we had all experienced up to this point.

Today's schedule was a lot more relaxed. We started the day in the same manner that we had previously, going to Reliant Stadium and eating in the Texans' cafeteria, followed by film of Wednesday's practice. The film session went well as you could really tell that we were becoming a team. There were very few mental errors and the timing between us all was very good.

After film we got dressed for practice. This time it was "shells" - which means shoulder pads and helmets only. Yesterday, we all began to participate in what has been a long-standing tradition, and we finished it up before practice today. I am speaking, of course, of the swapping of team decals that are then put on the player's helmets. It was pretty neat to see Oklahoma players wearing Longhorn stickers and USC guys with a Cal logo on their helmet. I even opted to sport a Washington Husky "W" which felt almost sacrilegious being a Washington State transfer, but this game really brings people together.

I entered the practice field; helmet covered with close to 10 decals, and was met with the strange sight of very few scouts. Practice was cut down to 90 minutes and was mainly team periods. We worked on polishing up the plays that will be ran on Saturday and then finished the day with some special teams work. This was our last real practice as tomorrow will be the typical Friday walk thru style of practice at the game field. It has really been a pleasure to learn from people such as Coach Stallings during this week. This has been an experience that myself and many of my teammates will use to try to further our careers in the months ahead. Thank you for enjoying my experience with me and I look forward to a great game on Saturday!

Wednesday January 14, 2009

"So day 3 of practice week is in the books. As I mentioned last night, Wednesday is supposedly the day that all the scouts are here. I say supposedly simply because there have been a ton of scouts here all week. However, the rumor is that tonight and tomorrow morning most of them leave. So, that being said today was our last chance to give an impression in person until the NFL combine.

Practice was similar to Tuesday in the sense that we were once again in full pads. As an offense we mainly worked on 3rd and medium/ long down and distances, so we added a few plays to the offense. In the run department we added a few draw plays and in the passing game we added a few deeper routes across the middle known as "dig" routes.

Today was a much better day for me personally. Monday and Tuesday we were throwing footballs that felt as if they had been prepared in some strange way. In talking to other quarterbacks, we thought made them appear very slippery and difficult to throw with much zip. But today we actually used brand new fresh out of the box NFL balls and the difference was huge. I felt that I had much more velocity and accuracy on my passes and was able to connect on a number of these dig route concepts. I was also more accurate during 1 on 1 drills and routes on air, so in all I definitely felt today was my best of the 3 practices. I am excited to get out to practice tomorrow and continue the improvement.

Outside of practice there really was not a whole lot going on. I had already interviewed with a majority of the teams so I was left meeting with only 1 team tonight. During my extra free time I visited what is known as "The Galleria" which is, by far, the biggest mall that I've been in. It was nice to get out and just relax for a couple of hours. Now I am just back in my hotel room unwinding before bed.

My family also just arrived in Houston and is driving to meet me, as I type this journal entry. They will be staying at the same hotel as me and it will be great for all of us to enjoy this experience together. My mom, dad, and younger brother and sister all made the trip so I will have at least 4 fans in the stands!

On a side note I just finished doing an autograph deal for the first time in my life. I was offered a deal with a card company named SAGE that deals with college players entering the draft and signed 3,000 cards that should be printed some time in March. This was a pretty cool experience for me coming from a smaller school and knowing that in a few months there will be thousands of trading cards with me on them.

This truly has been an incredible experience that I am excited to be apart of. The first half of the week has been great and I look forward to it getting even better during the second half. I just received a text that my family is here so I am off to find them, followed shortly be crashing in my bed. Thanks again to everyone who has been reading this and a special thanks to all of my CWU teammates! I wouldn't be here without you guys and I wish you could be here to join me, but I will do my best to represent you all in the way that you can be proud… GO CATS!

Tuesday January 13, 2009

"This morning started out much the same as the others; with an early breakfast followed by a morning meeting with the coaches. That was about the only similarity between today and yesterday, however.

Once the meetings were over we went to Reliant Stadium for most of the day. We started with a meal in the same facility that the Houston Texans uses to feed their players. After that it was time to get some film study in as we watched a recording of yesterday's practice. It was interesting to hear some of the comments from the coaches as they were taking an NFL approach, telling us how many of the mental mistakes would result in fines being given out rather than other forms of punishment.

After the meetings we got dressed for our second practice together. This time we were fully padded up, so the intensity seemed to grow. When we took the field the biggest difference was the temperature. A cold wind had blown in and blew pretty consistently for the day.

The practice setup was much the same as Monday's with the addition of a few "live" plays at the end where the defense was allowed to tackle the ball carrier. Things were still a little slow for most of us out there today but the feeling out process should pretty much be over with. Tomorrow looks to be the day that we will put it all together and begin to mesh well.

After practice came dinner and another round of interviews with scouts. From what I have been told tomorrow will be the big day when all of the final scouts will be arriving so I am really expecting the intensity to raise for the practice.

Speaking of that I will be needing a little extra sleep tonight to make sure that I am ready to go tomorrow.

So, with that, I must say goodnight.

Thanks for following along…


Monday January 12, 2009

"Today started off with a slight preview of what to expect during the combine. After an early breakfast and a quick team meeting, my teammates and I were taken to a banquet hall inside of the hotel. At that time we were told to strip to our compression shorts and stand in alphabetical order. Then one by one we were led into the room in front of around 200+ scouts and team personnel where we were measured and put on display. It was a new experience that many of us joked around about saying that it felt like we were being auctioned off.

After the show we had lunch followed by another team meeting. This meeting was short and sweet and consisted of us going over the plays that would be run later that day at practice. We then loaded the bus and headed off to Reliant Stadium. Once at the stadium we were escorted to the locker room where all of our gear was set up and waiting for us. It is an amazing facility and a great preview to what many of us will have an opportunity to play in next year.

After a short walk we arrived at a pretty cool scene. The practice field and its sidelines were covered with hundreds of people. Scouts, agents, TV news crews, coaches and players, you name it and they were there. It was an impressive sight at first but once we were on the field and warming up it seemed like any old football practice.

The layout for practice was the same that I have been used to for years: position warm up, routes on air, routes 1 on 1 versus a defender, pass skeleton, team run, and finally a team period. Things went well for it being the first practice but you could tell that everyone was a little rusty. Since none of us have ever played together the timing on the routes and throws was just a little off early, but we definitely improved as the day went along. By the end of the practice things were rolling smoothly and tomorrow we should be able to pick up where we left off.

After practice we were left with the rest of the evening free for interviews with scouts and in some cases GM's. Up to this point I have had interviews with about half of the teams and most likely will speak with pretty much all of them by the time that it is over. The interviews are all different, some taking place in the lobby, some in meeting rooms, and others in the scouts actual hotel room. The interviews all start the same asking some basic background questions but generally by the end it is very personalized. On average these interviews last about 20-30 minutes. It has been a great experience so far and I am looking forward to turning up the intensity tomorrow at practice. Now that we all know each other and have a practice under our belts I think we are really going to begin to click. I will update you more on that tomorrow. Goodnight!

Sunday January 11, 2009

  "My East-West Shrine game experience officially started last night when I arrived at the Houston airport. I was greeted by a welcoming committee of Shriners and then taken to the J.W. Marriott where pretty much anyone affiliated with the game is staying. The night was spent mostly by taking IQ tests and filling out questionnaires about ourselves. Although it was late at night we actually managed to have a team meeting where we were introduced to coach Stallings. A round of introductions was made by the players and I must say that it was fun to see the looks on some of the players' faces when I announced I was from Central Washington University. It would be fair to say that CWU was not as easily recognizable as some of the other schools such as Texas, Cal, and Oregon but at this game it is less about where you came from and more about what you're doing now.

This morning was early; waking up at 7:00 (which is 5:00 for me, being from the west coast) and we reported for physicals and breakfast. Next up was another team meeting where we began to introduce the offensive playbook. Having played for 3 different coaches in the last 3 years and learning a new playbook for each I find that this is actually the easiest one to learn as the coaches have kept things pretty vanilla. This is done so that the players representing so many different schools and playing styles will be able to gel as quickly as possible.

After the meeting, we left for what will most likely be considered by myself and others as the most rewarding experience of the trip. I am, of course, talking about the trip to the Shriner's hospital. As we arrived we were greeted by a high school band playing and a dance team as well as many children and their parents. After a brief introduction we were led inside where the fun began. The 5th and 6th floors were completely shut down and retrofitted into a huge playground. There were dozens of activities and hundreds of kids enjoying themselves.

Myself and a few other players started by sitting down with some families and enjoying a nice lunch of pizza, hot dogs, and pretzels! Not exactly what the nutritionist suggested, but hey, it's all for the good of the kids, right? I got to meet many of the kids and hear a few very sad stories. At first you can't help but feel your heart ripped out for some of these kids and what they have had to experience, but after you really get to know them, you realize how strong they truly are. Despite suffering some of the most intense burns, birth defects, and other health issues, these kids are running around all over the place with more energy than most players have in a game. It was amazing to stand there and watch a few of the kids having a break dance competition with some of the players. Despite the obstacles these kids face, they not only function but they do most things a lot better than many of us would.

Dancing was just one of the activities but there were many more. Myself and most other players sat around the table to have our faces painted by the volunteers that were working. I left with a nice green and blue snake wrapping around my beard and I even saw one player completely painted like Santa Clause, hat and all. There was also a section for wheelchair basketball, Rock Band (I was a pretty amazing drummer but was no match for the kid that was playing the guitar), a football toss, and a photo booth. We were there for 3 hours but once the time was up, no one was ready to leave. Finally, we got on the buses, having accomplished not only the most important event of the week, but also probably the most fun.

This game is amazing not only for the chance we, as players, get to show our skills to the NFL, but even more so for the money it pulls in to make sure that the Shriners are able to do what they have for these kids and their families. If you haven't already, please donate time, talent or both to this cause as it really is incredible.

The rest of the night has been spent doing interviews with team scouts, eating dinner, and then more interviews. All in all a very rewarding day but time for me to get some sleep as tomorrow is the big "weigh in" followed by the first practice of the week.

More on that tomorrow…

Thanks for following along with me…

Mike Reilly

*Post-game report
*Wednesday practice report
*Tuesday practice report

* (Right click mouse to Save Target As) East-West Shrine Measurements (Height, Weight, Hand, Arm)
Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet by Chad Reuter

*Monday practice report
*East-West Shrine All-Star Rosters
*East-West Shrine Journal: Central Washington QB Mike Reilly

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