After the debacle that was the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl for the UCLA offensive line, Jeff Baca will get one last game to prove his worth before the 2013 NFL Draft.
The redshirt senior offensive guard, along with redshirt senior tight end Joseph Fauria and cornerbacks senior Sheldon Price and redshirt senior Aaron Hester, will be competing at the East-West Shrine Game this Saturday. The all-star game, held in Florida, gives seniors the opportunity to showcase their talents in the presence of NFL scouts and coaches. The four Bruin seniors will be competing on the West team.
“My main goal is just to improve on my technique, really, and just to understand the playbook and what I’m taught, and try to put together a couple good days of practice,” Baca said.
“Learning from (other players) is extremely important, especially at this point in my career. Not only does this attract the best players but it also attracts the best coaches too.”
Players are taught by former NFL coaches and are provided the unique experience of playing alongside teammates they have only practiced with for a week. Baca has been working extensively with offensive line coach Steven Smith from the Kansas City Chiefs.
“It’s been awesome. Obviously, it’s a little bit different because you only have a week. It’s cool to play with guys that are such a high level and to be able to compete against those guys and actually meet them and be teammates with them – it’s just real cool,” Baca said.
Baca said that he received an invitation to play in the game via an email sent to coach Jim Mora. After accepting, Baca arrived in Florida on Saturday.
Although three other Bruins are on the same roster he is, Baca has had little communication or interaction with any of them, spending most of his time with his position group.
“We don’t get to spend much time together – just when we’re eating or passing by or in meetings for a little bit,” Baca said. “Joe’s on offense with me, but he’s in his personal meetings and I’m in my personal meetings, Sheldon and Aaron are in their personal meetings so we just don’t have much time.”
Much like this past season and his entire career, Baca has been showing off his versatility within his position group. He played three different offensive line positions in the Holiday Bowl alone.
“Today, I was playing left guard in practice. Tomorrow, I’ll probably play left guard again in practice,” he said. “The third day I think we’re going to switch it up. I might play center or something, but most likely as an interior offensive lineman.”
The all-star game serves as more than just a showcase for NFL hopefuls. The net proceeds of the event, which bears the slogan, “More than just a game,” go to the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Players also visited children at the hospital.
Baca, who has an interest in pursuing a medical degree, said the experience was an enlightening one for him.
“It was a phenomenal experience. To go visit the children’s hospital was a lifetime opportunity,” Baca said. “I didn’t know anything about the children’s hospital until Saturday and Sunday, and just what they’re doing for their community and the entire nation is amazing.”
The offensive lineman said he brought his camera with him when he visited the hospital and estimated that he probably took around 50 pictures with the kids.
“I think they’ve performed a million surgeries for free and when I heard that I just thought, ‘Wow that’s unbelievable,’” he said. “It was just great for me because I’m extremely interested in that and so thankful I got that opportunity.”
Compiled by Chris Nguyen, Bruin Sports senior staff.