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Gibson, Retzlaff to compete in bowl game

Southern Oregon University seniors Drew Gibson and Ryan Retzlaff have accepted invitations and will be competing in Monday’s USA Football Bowl in Jackson, Miss.

The annual bowl game offers an opportunity for college football seniors at the Division I-AA level and lower to compete at an all-star event that also features a combine testing atmosphere and the prospect of NFL scouts on hand.

Gibson and Retzlaff were key components in the Raiders’ run to their first-ever national championship in football, cementing their status in history with a 55-31 win over Marian (Ind.) in the NAIA title game. SOU finished with a 13-2 record and averaged 559 yards and 45.7 points per game.

“It’s awesome to be able to go out on a note like that,” Gibson said of being a national champion.

For Gibson, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound All-American right tackle, being part of the USA Football Bowl is all about strapping on the pads one more time and testing his talents against some of the nation’s top lower-division players.

“It’s cool, I’m looking forward to it,” said Gibson, who leaves with Retzlaff for Mississippi on Thursday. “I don’t really have a whole lot of aspirations to go further in football, but it’s a cool thing for me to get to go see how good I am with all the other guys.”

Gibson said his invitation actually came at the behest of his quarterback, NAIA player of the year Austin Dodge. Dodge had received an invitation last October to compete and was allowed to invite one of his senior linemen and chose Gibson. Dodge has since pulled out of the bowl game in order to better prepare for a shot at the NFL combine.

“It’s like my last hurrah, I guess, in football,” said Gibson. “We went out national champions and I got All-American again but it’ll still be neat to see how I do against the rest of nation.”

For Retzlaff, this weekend’s festivities, which include taking part in a Martin Luther King Jr. parade on Monday prior to the football game, offer the 6-foot, 190-pound receiver an opportunity to prolong his time on the gridiron.

Retzlaff caught five passes for 117 yards and one touchdown in the national championship game. For the season, he finished with 105 catches for 1,594 yards and 12 TDs.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to have more exposure,” said Retzlaff. “I’m definitely excited to have one of my teammates with me in the bowl game, but I honestly have no idea what to expect.”

The Medford players each received an itinerary that includes two two-a-day practices along with the combine-like testing and a banquet prior to the game. Retzlaff, who is training for potential NFL and CFL combines, said he’s hopeful to catch the eye of scouts in Mississippi.

“That’s the whole reason why I’m going, to get my name out there and get more competition,” he said. “It’s the best of the best who are going to be there so I figure it’s a great opportunity for me to test my abilities against all of them before I take the next step.”

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry