Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - This time three years ago, you may not have known the name Julius Thomas.
Peyton Manning knows him quite well today.
The name Robert Alford might have been vague to you one year ago.
The Atlanta Falcons learned enough about him to scoop Alford up in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
FCS players generally have to do a lot to overcome a small-school bias with NFL teams as they head toward the annual draft, which this year will be held May 8-10 in New York.
The postseason all-star games and ultimately the NFL Combine are the perfect showcases for FCS players to prove they can compete at a higher level, as Thomas, the former-basketball-player-turned-tight end at Portland State, did in the 2010 East-West Shrine Game before he was drafted by the Denver Broncos, and Alford did at last year's Senior Bowl before the cornerback from Southeastern Louisiana was the first FCS selection at 60th overall.
Portland State running back D.J. Adams started getting word out on the FCS draft class this past Saturday at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl in Charleston, S.C. He scored on 19- and 1-yard touchdown runs as coach Ralph Friedgen's American squad posted a 20-3 win over coach Chan Gailey's National team.
For many FCS prospects, it's not so much what you know or who you know, it's when you show them what you can do. The Medal of Honor Bowl, which is just getting its foot in among the all-star game circuit, attracted upward of 100 pro scouts to practices last week.
Scouts will pack practices this week for Saturday's East-West Shrine in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Carson, Calif., and then next week in preparation for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala.
Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the 2013 Walter Payton Award winner, and Montana State defensive end-turner-linebacker Brad Daly, the 2013 Buck Buchanan Award winner, will be in action this weekend, trying to turn heads. Both are expected to be drafted in May.
Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid and offensive linemen Dakota Dozier of Furman and Billy Turner of three-time reigning FCS national champion North Dakota State also are top prospects in the FCS class.
FCS Players in Upcoming All-Star Games
All Times ET
East-West Shrine Game
Saturday, Jan. 18
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Fla.
4 p.m. (NFL Network)
East Roster (head coach Jerry Glanville): Zach Bauman, RB, Northern Arizona; Kyle Bryant, OT, Youngstown State; Chris Elkins, C, Youngstown State; Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois; Matt Hazel, WR, Coastal Carolina; Zachariah Kerr, DT, Delaware; Erik Lora, WR, Eastern Illinois; Jeff Mathews, QB, Cornell; Johnny Millard, LB, Cal Poly; Kerry Wynn, DT, Richmond.
West Roster (head coach Romeo Crennel): Dakota Dozier, OG, Furman; Timothy Flanders, RB, Sam Houston State; Danny Kistler Jr., OT, Montana; Tyler Starr, LB, South Dakota; Marcus Williams, CB, North Dakota State
NFLPA Collegiate Bowl
Saturday, Jan. 18
StubHub Center, Carson, Calif.
6 p.m. (ESPN2)
American Roster (head coach Dennis Green): Greg Hardin, WR, North Dakota; Erie Ladson, OT, Delaware; Chris Maikranz, LS, Lamar; Tony Washington, WR, Appalachian State;
National Roster (head coach Dick Vermeil): Ray Agnew, FB, Southern Illinois; Rakim Cox, DE, Villanova; Brad Daly, LB, Montana State; Kendall James, CB, Maine; T.J. Lee III, CB, Eastern Washington; Jordan Love, CB, Towson; Tyree Mills, CB, Southern Utah; Stephon Robertson, LB, James Madison; Josh Wells, OT, James Madison.
Saturday, Jan. 25
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
4 p.m. (NFL Network)
Invites Accepted (head coaches Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons and Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars): Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty; Kadeem Edwards, OG, Tennessee State; Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern; Tyler Ott, LS, Harvard; Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton; Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana; Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State; Lavelle Westbrooks, CB, Georgia Southern.