By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jordan Lynch welcomes the opportunity to show he’s a better NFL prospect than some pro scouts might suspect.
The Northern Illinois quarterback was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2013 and did a masterful job of running the Huskies offense over the past two seasons.
Still, he entered practice for Saturday’s East-West Shrine game at Tropicana Field feeling he has to prove he’s capable of being successful on the next level.
“Overall, I hope I showed the scouts that I could throw the football. That was one of the biggest knocks on me,” said the 6-foot, 216-pound Lynch, who led Northern Illinois to a BCS bowl berth as a junior and 24-4 record in two years as a starter.
“I run the ball well. But I can throw it, and I wanted to show them that,” he added. “The receivers here are studs and all of them stick out. They bailed me out a few times in the last couple of days.”
Lynch rushed for 1,920 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, while also posting some impressive numbers throwing the ball.
He completed 62.6 percent of his passes as a senior for 2,892 yards, 24 TDs and just eight interceptions. He threw for over 3,100 yards, 25 TDs and six interceptions in his only other season as a starter.
“I didn’t think much about the individual accolades because it was always about the team,” said Lynch, who’ll play for the East on Saturday.
“I’ve always set high expectations for myself, and if I really thought about it, I knew things like that were possible,” he added of his accomplishments in college. “But it was a great journey and I have to thank my coaches, teammates and family for their help in making it possible.”
Five things to watch as Lynch and other prospects try to bolster their resumes for pro scouts:
SOMETHING TO PROVE, TOO: Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees is among the quarterbacks on the West roster. Like Lynch, he’s hoping to demonstrate that he has what it takes to play in the pros. His father, Bill, is a college scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so he’s familiar with the all-star game process. “It’s another opportunity to answer questions that scouts may have about your ability and compete with other guys that are also trying to get to the NFL and make a roster,” said Rees, who completed 54 percent of his passes for 3,257 yards, 27 TDs and 13 interceptions as a senior.
FAMILIAR FACES: A couple of former NFL head coaches are leading the teams. One-time Falcons and Oilers coach Jerry Glanville heads the East. Ex-Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel leads the West. “The main thing I look for, and the other coaches look for, is the attitude and who’s ready to come in and put in a good week of work,” Crennel said. “We had a lot of guys that came in eager to put in the work, and that’s a good thing.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Players hope Saturday’s game leads to other opportunities to state their case for being selected in the draft or winding up in NFL camps as undrafted free agents. “Right now, I’m looking for an invite to the combine,” Purdue defensive back Ricardo Allen said. “The scouts are telling me I’m going to have to work inside and perform on special teams, so I’m preparing for that. But Saturday I’m going to work on some outside receivers and prove I can handle myself there.”
CATCH ME, IF YOU CAN: Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon is eager to impress with the East. “Scouts want to know about my speed, so I plan to show them that I can get up the field quickly. It’s a good competitive environment here,” he said. Gallon had 80 receptions for 1,284 yards and nine TDs this season.
PROUD TRADITION: This is the 89th East-West Shrine game. The longest running all-star game in the country began in 1925.