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One final showcase

Four Raider football seniors earned NAIA All-American honors to cap their collegiate football careers this week.

"It's an outstanding way for them to finish their careers," ninth-year Raider head coach Jeff Olson said. "The season may not have been what we wanted, but it's something to be very proud of as they finish their careers."

But for one Southern Oregon senior gridder, his collegiate football career isn't quite done yet.

Wide receiver Andrae Thurman will play in the 2004 Hula Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Saturday. The transfer from Arizona State will play with and against a group of predominately Division-I athletes in a last-chance effort to showcase their skills before professional scouts. Thurman is the first SOU player to play in the Hula Bowl since defensive lineman Jon "Moose" Chamberlain enjoyed the honor in 1998 Hula Bowl.

"He's earned the opportunity," Olson said. "Ultimately, when you get to that stage, you hope you get a chance to play in the NFL."

Thurman joined Raider All-Americans Dusty McGrorty and Steve Baker at the 2003 Blue-Gray all-star game in Montgomery, Ala., on Christmas Day. Over 300 NFL scouts observed the seniors at practice and in action on Dec. 25. Thurman averaged seven yards on three punt returns and hauled in a pass for a 49-yard gain to spark a first-half touchdown drive.

"These are very prestigious bowl games," Olson said. "It's quite an honor. It's two-fold: one, to test his skills, two, as a reward for everything he's accomplished in his career."

In 2003, Thurman led the team and finished fifth nationally for receptions-per-game with 6.9 and ranked second among Northwest small-college players, with a 105-yard game receiving average.

The game will be televised live on ESPN2 at 5 p.m.