LSU receiver Russell Shepard headed to Senior Bowl

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLINGLSU receiver Russell Shepard flies across the goal line during a 2011 game against Arkansas. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLINGLSU receiver Russell Shepard flies across the goal line during a 2011 game against Arkansas.

Ex-LSU player to join former La. Tech standout, others at Mobile all-star game

MOBILE, Ala. — The list of players with Louisiana ties in the Senior Bowl grew Tuesday when LSU wide receiver Russell Shepard and Louisiana Tech tackle Jordan Mills were added to the South roster for Saturday’s game.

Shepard was selected as an injury replacement Tuesday and will be on the field for Wednesday afternoon’s practice in Ladd-Peebles Stadium. It’s the second all-star game in a week for Shepard, who also participated in the Raycom All-Star Classic on Saturday in Montgomery, Ala.

Mills, a graduate of Assumption High School, was an All-Western Athletic Conference first-team pick for the Bulldogs this season. The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder was working out in the Dallas area Monday night when he got the invite from Senior Bowl officials.

“I was on the next flight out,” he said with a smile.

Four other Louisiana players are on the South roster — LSU defensive end Lavar Edwards, Southeastern cornerback Robert Alford, and two of Mills’ Louisiana Tech teammates, punter Ryan Allen and wide receiver Quinton Patton.

Scotlandville High School graduate Dallas Thomas, a tackle who played his college ball at Tennessee, practiced Monday with the South squad, but was replaced Tuesday.

Going bowling

Allen, Patton and Mills will have the satisfaction of playing in a bowl game after all after Louisiana Tech was left out of the postseason last month despite a 9-3 record.

“Quinton and I were kind of talking about that (Monday),” said Allen, who won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter the past two seasons. “It’s good to be here and to have one more go-round.

“It’s a business now, and we’re here to work and display our talents and show the Louisiana Tech brand one more time,” he said. “We didn’t get a bowl bid, but that’s the way the cards fall sometimes. But we had a lot of seniors that had a good run there, so we look at that as a positive.”

Payton to talk

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, who was reinstated Tuesday from his season-long suspension by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, will meet with reporters after taking in the North team’s practice Wednesday morning in his first day back on the job.

One of the first things Payton has to do is hire a new offensive line coach after Aaron Kromer, who also served as running game coordinator, left to become the Chicago Bears’
offensive coordinator.

“It’s a huge loss. … Aaron is very, very talented,” Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said Monday. “His players believe in him. Ever since Aaron came in here, we’ve been able to run the ball, protect the quarterback.

“But this is something that’s the next progression for Aaron, to go and become an offensive coordinator and be more active in play-calling. This is what he wanted and we’re proud of him.”

Ahead of schedule

Despite Payton’s absence throughout the 2012 season and the 31/2 weeks since the season finale, Vitt said the Saints are well ahead of the curve anticipating Payton’s return — which was supposed to come after the Super Bowl.

“We’re ahead of the curve right now in this respect — we’ve been through our evaluations with our football team,” Vitt said. “We spent a good amount of time profiling the players in the Senior Bowl, so everything is exactly the way Sean would do it.

“When Sean comes back, the book is going to be ready for him.”

Mathieu visiting

Because he would have just completed his junior season, former LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu isn’t allowed to play in the Senior Bowl.

But that hasn’t stopped Mathieu from visiting and doing interviews with officials from a number of NFL teams this week.

“I’ve talked to about four or five teams so far,” Mathieu said Tuesday morning as he walked through the stands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. “I think everything’s gone well. I’m just being honest and truthful about everything, and I think they respected my honesty and my truthfulness.”

No hard feelings

Mike Singletary was fired as coach of the San Francisco 49ers after three seasons in 2010, but that isn’t keeping the Hall of Fame linebacker from being happy about the Niners run to Super Bowl XLVII.

“I’m every excited to see them finally put it together and keep it together,” said Singletary, who is now a member of the Minnesota Vikings’ coaching staff. “We felt it was coming but didn’t get a chance to finish the job.

“But I’m very happy for everyone in the organization — especially the players who were there when I was.”

Advocate sportswriter
Ted Lewis contributed
to this report.