Football: UH’s Alridge will compete in East-West Shrine Game
The 83rd East-West Shrine Game is a chance for senior collegiate football players to showcase their skills against some of the top competition in the nation.
This will be the second year that the annual Shrine Game will be in Houston, and UH will host the event at 6 p.m. Saturday at Robertson Stadium.
For UH senior running back Anthony Alridge, this game can mean a lot.
Alridge’s last outing for scouts was a real bruiser to his draft stock, netting his season-low 29 yards rushing on 15 carries. But Alridge said he isn’t going to do anything extra – he’s going to be himself.
"I’m going to be me, regardless. I was me at the Texas Bowl and I’m going to be me wherever I go," Alridge said.
Alridge really impressed West head coach Mike White. White said that his team has tremendous talent on both sides of the ball.
"I love the running back (Alridge) from Houston," White said. "You know, he’s something. He’s quick and fast. The tight end from Oklahoma, Joe Jon Finley, is a very talented guy."
White has had successful stints as head coach with the University of California – Berkeley and the University of Illinois, leading both to Pacific-8 and Big 10 championships, respectively.
"He definitely gives you advice," Alridge said. "He’s been around a long time. You’ve got a lot of great coaches out here so we’re going to do our thing on the West side."
The Shrine Game stands for more than football. The players may play for a better stock grade and put on a show for future employers, but this game is as much for the children as it is the players.
The two teams visited the Shriners Hospitals for Children on Sunday. The game is played for child burn victims and those in need of expert orthopedic care. The children receive treatments at no cost, and money made at the Shrine Games goes to the 22 Shriner hospitals around the country.
"Being able to go and see the kids and knowing how much contribution you can make with this game is very important," Texas defensive lineman Frank Okam said. "Back at the University of Texas we used to visit hospitals and tried to give something back to the community. When you see the kids and the kind of impact you have on them, it’s a special feeling."
Four players will represent Conference USA in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game, and two of those will play for the East team, which is coached by college and NFL legend Dick Vermeil.
The team features Tulsa’s Paul Smith and Marshall’s Bernard Morris, both quarterbacks. Smith threw for 5,065 yards and averaged 9.3 yards per pass in the 2007 season, leading Tulsa to the C-USA Championship game.
"It’s fun to see those guys (from C-USA), and it’s fun for us to get a chance to go against the bigger conferences," Smith said. "I’ve gotten to know the guys on the East team. We’ve got a really complex offense." ?Another C-USA quarterback is Marshall’s Bernard Morris. In 2007, Morris completed 253 of 398 passes for 3,149 yards and 17 touchdowns, and his play in practice has impressed Vermeil.
"Morris has thrown some unbelievable shots," Vermeil said. "He’s pretty raw, but he’s got an arm."
Vermeil also said the offensive ability of the East team is something he will utilize in Saturday’s game.
"We’re going to try to give them some things they can do and do well," he said.