An invitation to the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. is a coveted thing for collegiate players with high hopes for taking their careers to the professional level.
Georgia Southern was able to place a pair of its players in this year’s Senior Bowl lineup and both Tyler Bass and Kindle Vildor did themselves and the Eagles proud.
For Bass, playing in college football’s most prestigious postseason all-star game represented the opposite extreme on the prestige meter from where he started. The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder with a cannon of a right foot initially came to Statesboro as a walk-on hopeful. He earned a spot on the roster and - following the graduation of current Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo - began to earn some playing time.
Bass steadily improved from year to year and became a huge weapon for the Eagles on both kickoffs and field goals over his final two seasons, highlighted by a walk-off, game-winning field goal to cap a comeback win over Eastern Michigan in the 2019 Camellia Bowl.
“It’s been a great ride,” Bass said. “I’m extremely thankful for my time at Georgia Southern and all of my coaches and teammates who have helped me grow.”
Bass couldn’t have done more to help his professional stock during his week in Mobile.
He popped up on various scouting social media sites during practice with talk of his power and pro potential. When the game rolled around, he was just as good, hitting on all four of his extra point attempts — from the extended professional distance - while also hitting both of his field goal attempts including a 50-yarder as the final gun sounded.
“It was an incredible week,” Bass said. “I depended so much on (GS snapper Ryan Langan and holder Anthony Beck) and then had new teammates to work with this week. But they were all-stars and great at their jobs, too. We just got on the same page and got the job done.”
Doing just as much to make his cause for a pro contract this coming fall was Vildor.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound cornerback had a breakout season in 2018 and continued to impress this fall to earn All-Sun Belt Conference recognition in each of his final two seasons at Georgia Southern.
Standing out as a defensive back can be tricky as a great performance could make for a boring day where no balls are thrown in their direction. But Vildor made the most of an opportunity in the Senior Bowl, intercepting an errant pass by Michigan’s Shea Patterson and returning it 22 yards for one of the game’s biggest defensive highlights.
“I just tried to focus on playing my best,” Vildor said. “I wanted to do my job, and then there was an overthrown pass and I was right there to get it.”
Aside from the obvious implications of increasing their appeal to NFL teams, both Eagle players noted that there was a different feeling to the preparation leading up to the game.
After all, the internal makeup of any given player is of just as much concern to pro teams as what they can do on the field.
“I was focused on conducting myself as a professional,” Bass said. “Without it being a normal week with our normal coaches, there was a lot more free time, so I wanted to focus on using that time to act like a professional. How I work out, how I eat, how I warm up - it’s all going to be important to get to the next level.”
Vildor had a similar approach.
“You see a lot of NFL coaches and scouts throughout the week,” Vildor said. “They all had encouraging words that I appreciate, but they’re also all watching. Whether it’s the game or drills or practice, you never know who is watching, so I was giving it everything the whole week.”
Both players have already graduated from Georgia Southern and will spend the next few months training in hopes of impressing at their pro day and/or the NFL Combine that will be held in Indianapolis from Feb. 23 - March 2.