College bowl games attract NFL hopefuls, large crowds to Roanoke

Local News

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR News) – College football athletes hoping to go pro are flocking to Roanoke this weekend for the Dream Bowl and the HBCU Spirit of America Bowl.

The games will be at the Salem Football Stadium. The HBCU Spirit of America Bowl on Sunday at 1 p.m. and the Dream Bowl on Monday at noon.

The bowl games and other events are bringing hundreds of players, their families, coaches, scouts and others to the Star City.

For some players, this will be their only chance to get in front of recruiters to be considered for the professional leagues. So it’s bringing in a large crowd, which means more business for the area.

“As of right now, football is the most important thing in my life,” said Gibson Ziah.

For the outside linebacker and defensive end, this is his chance.

“I’m trying to make it to the point where I can call myself a professional.”

He wants to be in the NFL and says this weekend he hopes to impress some people who can help.

“There’s tons of scouts and tons of exposure here. So I feel like this is the best place to showcase my talents,” Ziah said.

He and more than 200 other athletes came to play in the two bowl games and some, like Gibson, took part in a special HBCU combine.

Players showed off their skills and abilities to help launch their careers.

“Everybody can’t go to the NFL combine. So you have combines such as ours that allow scouts to see these numbers and say these people deserve a chance,” said Sports trainer Devin Johnson.

Neil Malvone with Cutting Edge Sports Management agreed.

“For a lot of these guys, this is their chance to get to the NFL, to get to the XFL, Europe. So this is as big an opportunity that they’re ever going to have,” Malvone said.

Athletes come from all over the country to participate.

“We have somebody here from Alaska. We have people here from California, New Mexico state. Parents travel, school deans and presidents travel just to be around for this,” Johnson said.

The crowds also bring more dollars going into the Roanoke area economy.

“The division of tourism, the Virginia Blue Ridge people they love it because they know between the hotel rooms, the restaurants, the local attractions,” Malvone said.

“The families are here and they’re bringing a lot of value to the city.”

The organization putting on the event, Cutting Edge Sports Management is headquartered at the Holiday Inn at Tanglewood. Malvone says the hotel is already full and their overflow hotels are also filling up. He estimates this weekend’s events could bring enough people to fill around 700 to 800 hotel rooms.

Big Lick Brewery was a partner of the bowls last year, but this year they decided they wanted to do more. Malvone says the head brewmaster there created an IPA dedicated to this weekend called Dream and achieve.

“He’s a terrific guy. He played football. He understands how hard these guys have worked. So he wanted to give something back to them,” said Malvone.


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