If there is ever going to be a Handshake Hall of Fame it should be in Mobile, Ala., site of the Senior Bowl, the NFL's ultimate schmoozefest.
This was my first trip to the annual college all-star game, which draws the coaching and scouting staffs of every NFL team as well as those seeking employment. The people watching is fascinating. Wearing a straight-from-the-box Seahawks' jacket, Pete Carroll holds the door for others at downtown hotel. While eating breakfast you might notice Mean Joe Greene at a nearby table. With their long, gray hair, Rex and Rob Ryan, sons of ex-Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, look like aging bikers. It's a strange sight to see Charlie Weis holding court in Kansas City red and yellow after all those years in Notre Dame blue and gold. Former Super Bowl winning quarterback Jay Schroeder is making the rounds, trying to catch on with a team as a quarterbacks' coach.
There's Trace Armstrong, who looks like he has lost 100 pounds since he suited up for the Bears.
The Senior Bowl would be a fun trip for an NFL fan. Mobile, Ala., is an off-the-beaten-path NFL destination and the low-key atmosphere affords an up-close view of not only future NFL players but the coaches you see on the sidelines every week. Enjoy a meal or stroll through a hotel lobby and NFL luminaries are everywhere.
The weather isn't always as warm as those who annually gather there would like, but it beats Chicago in late January.
Most of all, it reminds you that even though the NFL is a billion-dollar industry, the heartbeat of the league is still guys leaning against a chain-link fence swapping stories and evaluating talent.