Spring League for NFL hopefuls will have distinctly Texas flavor

Johnny Manziel will grab the headlines, but the advanced developmental pro football league coming to Austin for a 16-day run is likely to include at least 25 players with ties to Texas college programs.

Three former Longhorns — wide receiver Mike Davis, safety Dylan Haines and defensive end Lourde-Quincy Vasser — have committed to compete in the Spring League at Reeves Athletic Complex from March 28 to April 12 as they try to catch the eyes of NFL scouts.

Baylor will have the most representatives with five players, including 2013 All-America defensive back Ahmad Dixon and two running backs, Lache Seastrunk, a former Temple High standout, and Johnny Jefferson. The group also includes former Bears wide receivers Jay Lee and Antwan Goodley.

“Texas has always been a hotbed for NFL-caliber talent,” said Spring League CEO Brian Woods. “That being said, it was important for us to procure not just players who played for Texas schools but others who have ties to the state of Texas.”

Running back Ben Tate fits in the latter category. The former Auburn star was a second-round draft pick of the Houston Texans in 2010.

Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winner from Kerrville Tivy, and offensive lineman Cameron Clear will represent Texas A&M among the 150 hopefuls, who will divide into four teams for practices and games.

“Our 2018 roster features 23 former NFL draft picks,” Woods said. “I think fans will be surprised at the level of talent participating.”

Defensive end Devonte Fields was the Big 12 freshman of the year in 2012, registering 10 sacks, 18½ tackles for loss and 53 tackles for TCU. Fields transferred to Louisville, where he posted 11 sacks in 2015.

Former players from 14 Texas schools will be coming to Austin, including wide receiver C.J. Best and tight end Lawrence White from Texas State and wide receiver Blake Jackson and defensive back Keith Reineke from Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Woods said his group evaluates players every fall, using referrals from agents and NFL scouts. Though not affiliated with the NFL, the Spring League expects more than 20 NFL teams to either personally check out the competition or request tape. The games will be broadcast on Turner Sports’ new livestreaming service.

The buildup is going well, Woods said, with ticket sales being steady.

“We expect more than 5,000 at our first game,” he said.

The Spring League had planned to set up at Circuit of the Americas, but neither side could reach a final agreement.

“We were disappointed COTA was unable to host us in 2018,” Woods said. “Bobby Epstein and Roberto Pinto da Silva worked tirelessly to make it happen. Ultimately, I felt a turn-key football facility like Kelly Reeves was a better fit for us.”

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