One member of the Duke football program has received some good news. Linebacker Shaka Heyward was named to the Reese’s Senior Bowl Watch List when it was released earlier today.
Heyward was one of the few bright spots on a defense that struggled greatly in 2021. He led the team in tackles with 98, had 11 ½ tackles-for-loss, three sacks, and an interception. The redshirt senior from Georgia has started 29 games and played over 2,400 snaps in his career. He was a third-team All-ACC selection last season.
The Reese’s Senior Bowl is college football’s preeminent all-star game. The coaching staffs are made up of NFL assistants and practices are crawling with scouts. Forty percent of the players taken in this past April’s NFL Draft played in this game, including forty-five of the top one hundred players selected. For a fringe draft prospect like Heyward, earning an invitation will greatly enhance his chances of making an NFL roster next year.
When I read through draft scouting reports on Heyward, it is obvious he has a lot of work to do if he hopes to get drafted and stick with a team. Some shortcomings can be corrected with better coaching, but some, like upper body strength, will have to be improved on his own. The hope is he will greatly benefit from having a defensive guy like Jim Elko take over the Blue Devil program.
Please keep in mind Heyward has been added to the watch list and not actually been chosen to play in the game. The announcement of the official rosters will be made sometime in December. The Reese’s Senior Bowl will be played the afternoon of February 4th at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama and televised by the NFL Network. This will be the 73rd edition of the showcase, which began in 1950.