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"I feel like I've done more [interviews] in these two days than in my whole college career," a grinning Davenport said during Senior Bowl week, in the midst of his rise from relative unknown to first-round prospect. ) to a stadium ramp, where Jerry Jones happily chatted up fans curious about his niece and his grandson and his starting quarterback. "Enjoy," Jones said, "is an understatement." --- "I'm the eagle," Stanford's Harrison Phillips said, and he wasn't talking about the Super Bowl champions.

Put it all together, and you'll understand why football assembles every year in Mobile, from hotel lobbies (there's Doug Williams! For 48 hours before those 100-some prospects held their first practice, they began their mating dance with the NFL, weeks of auditions and interviews in which teams attempt to find order out of chaos.

"Everybody who's anybody in the National Football League is here." That includes media; more than 500 credentials were issued for this year's event, a number that has nearly doubled over the past decade.

It includes coaches, and scouts, and agents, and suit salesmen, and jewelry salesmen, and financial advisers, and the diehardiest of fans, including a group of radio listeners that assembles here annually for tailgates and an awards dinner.

"I can't explain this - why we're here and what we do here - to civilians," said Todd Chrisman, who took off work and traveled from Maine to hang out with virtual strangers.

"It's like funeral rules: If you know about it and you think you should go, you should go." There are actual football players, too.

And look, leaning against the piano and chomping on an unlit cigar is Jerry Jones himself, a perfect embodiment of the retro NFL spirit that comes to life here every January.

"NFL football brings us all together," drawls one fan to Jones, before asking for a a.m. Welcome to the Senior Bowl, a January rite of passage that's part college All-Star Game, part job fair, part scouting extravaganza, part industry convention, part spring break trip and part 20th century time warp.But while it has become a popular televised spectacle, football people can't help pointing out that the event features exactly zero moments of football.Stop gawking at Mobile's sidewalk celebrities for a minute, and you will discover that the Senior Bowl's real focus is those midweek practices - run by NFL coaching staffs, featuring NFL terminology and NFL drills, and highlighted by one-on-one showdowns conducted with a please-hire-me ferocity." A few blocks down, another watering hole has attracted a rub-your-eyes cast straight out of a psychedelic football dream: There's Dan Marino, a table away from rising coaching star James Bettcher, who is just two hours into his tenure as Giants defensive coordinator.There's Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, and Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, and an Australian ex-rugby-player-turned-NFL-hopeful showing off his eight-and-a-half fingers that resulted from a long-ago crocodile attack.The emailed report further informed him that Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Derek Carr, Deshaun Watson and J. Watt were also eagles, and that the eagle's strength is working to please others and remaining optimistic and cooperative. "How'd you grow up, your parents, where you went to high school, what positions you played, what sports you played, how'd you get to the school you ended up at, what other schools did you look at, how much did you weigh when you got there, how much do you weigh now, how much did you weigh junior year, sophomore year, why are you driven to play football, why are you here, what are you planning to show when you get here?"Holy cow," Phillips thought when he read this assessment. " recounted Humboldt State offensive lineman Alex Cappa.And so this is where question marks like Oklahoma's Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield can start convincing the NFL they're worth the risk.It's also where future household names bubble into the mainstream, like Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen - one of this year's most scrutinized players - or Texas-San Antonio pass rusher Marcus Davenport, one of the buzziest attendees.They're told to track six out of 20 bouncing balls on a screen, and then to point out those six balls when they stop bouncing. "You're walking on stage, you've just got your tights on, your shirt off, and everyone's just staring up at you, writing all these notes down.And they're asked to recap their personal lives, in 15- or 20-minute chunks, over and over again. I don't know what they're writing down, but I hope they're writing down some good things." As the parade continued Tuesday morning, Cincinnati Bengals Coach Marvin Lewis appeared down the convention center hallway, preparing for a meeting of minority coaches and scouts.

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