2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl: Standouts from Day 4 of practice
The 2020 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl will be broadcast exclusively on NFL Network as well as the NFL and NFL Network apps at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Jan. 18.
PASADENA, Calif. — Roy, Jeff, Terry and Sherman. That’s the portmanteau of Rojesterman Farris II. (Yes, there are two Rojestermans out there.)
"My grandmother made it up," Farris said. "I know I have a grandpa Roy. The rest of them I don’t really know. But that’s how it came to be. And I love my name, honestly.
"But I go by Roe because everybody, they somehow find a way to butcher it."
The pronunciation is phonetic, so it isn’t as daunting as it might read. Farris doesn’t care so much what you call him, anyway, so long as you’re talking about him.
The Hawaii cornerback has generated a buzz this week at NFLPA Collegiate Bowl practices, with defensive backs coach Ricky Manning calling him one of the National team’s better corners. His cover skills have some observers in Pasadena saying he might be the best on either roster.
"I think he has an opportunity to make a 53-man," Manning said, before adding he could see Farris being a late-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
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That certainly wasn’t on Farris’ mind on National Signing Day in 2015. He’d just found out that two schools initially offering him a scholarship no longer were interested. His lone option was to play at Wagner College, an FCS program in Staten Island, New York.
He was about to sign his letter of intent during a ceremony at his Florida high school when his dad interrupted the party.
"I’m sitting at the signing table and my dad, it’s time to take the family photo and my dad leans over, he says, don’t sign anything," Farris said. "Hawaii just offered you."
A family friend had sent his film to the Rainbow Warriors, but Farris never heard back. He’d never visited. He never imagined. A few hours later, at home at his desk, he signed with Hawaii.
"You see how far I had to go?" he said. "That’s thousands of miles away, I’m a six-hour time difference from my family. But at the end of the day you got to put your head down and, I knew what goal I was trying to reach, you got to focus and put your mind to it and that’s what I did.
"Across the whole United States just to play some ball."
The three-year starter at Hawaii could find himself playing a lot more in the continental U.S. depending on how he performs in the coming months. At 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Farris has ideal size for his position. Manning lauded his footwork and fluidity but said his best trait is his confidence.
"He has mental toughness," Manning said. "He’s a competitor. That’s what the NFL teams want. They want to populate their board with competitive players, defensive players that can play on defense and special teams, and he fits that mold.
"He has a lot of potential. I like him."
Farris believed he always had it. What’s made this experience so special, aside from the obvious privilege of being coached by Manning, Carnell Lake and Rod Woodson, is it reinforces the simple but salient lesson that hard work pays off.
"You never know who’s watching," Farris said. "They say eyes are everywhere, the eye in the sky don’t lie. You always got to put your best foot forward and play ball.
"There was a point in time where, a lot of people here, they thought they would never be here. To be able to get an invite, showcase my talents in front of all these scouts and be in front of NFL legends, it’s a beautiful thing."
The few, the chosen, the quarterbacks
Brian Lewerke said he woke up this morning thinking about some numbers.
"There’s probably 150 of us here," he said. "There’s three of these bowl games, three big ones in the entire nation. That’s 450 guys out of all the college guys that are trying to play at the next level. We’re lucky."
Lewerke is one of six quarterbacks in attendance and has as much big-game experience as any. He was a three-year starter at Michigan State and played in three bowl games. Saturday will be his final chance in a live setting to show he’s worthy of being drafted.
American coach Hue Jackson said Lewerke "has a chance" of hearing his name called in Nevada this April because of one reason in particular:
"His arm talent," Jackson said. "He has exceptional arm talent."
What he’s implored the former Spartan to do moving forward is improve his mechanics to become a more accurate passer. Lewerke noted it’s been his primary focus since his senior season concluded.
"I know I’m a great player," he said. "I think I’m better than what my tape has shown at Michigan State. Obviously the injuries of 2018, I had some bad games. I probably shouldn’t have played in hindsight. Last year, just stuff I know I can fix. I think I have all the mental game. I can understand defenses.
"If I can just figure out how to get my ball consistent every time, I think I can be a great quarterback."
Jackson has also been intrigued by what he’s seen from QB Nathan Rourke of Ohio University. The dual-threat dynamo averaged nearly 2,500 passing yards and 900 rushing yards over his three seasons at the Group of Five school.
But he isn’t resting on that film alone to make an impression on potential future employers. Following nightly interviews with scouts this week, which could go as late as 11 p.m., Rourke said he’s been poring over the playbook.
"I’ve had a big wake-up call to how tough it is to learn an offense," he said. "I’ve put in a lot of hours to studying this and make sure I’ve had it down. All the free time that I have, just get the terminology down."
It’s paid off in practice, with Rourke making it easy to see why he got a late invite to Pasadena. As of Thursday, the QBs had not been told who will start Saturday. But the expectation is they’ll all get a healthy amount of snaps.
It will be the biggest stadium Rourke has performed in.
"I can’t wait to watch him play," Jackson said.
Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton did not practice Thursday because of knee tenderness and is not expected to play for the National team Saturday.
The two teams will attend the Orlando Magic-Los Angeles Clippers game Thursday evening. They’ll hold walkthroughs Friday morning at the Rose Bowl. Gates open at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
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