Jeff Ulbrich is back in Mobile, AL, for this week's 75th edition of the Senior Bowl all-star game (which now includes several underclassmen). And this time, instead of being on the field as an undersized linebacker from the University of Hawaii in 2000, Ulbrich is the head coach of the National Team.
And Jim Nagy, the game's executive director, had nothing but praise for Ulbrich and his approach, whether it's on the sideline with the Jets or working with NFL hopefuls this week.
"Ulbrich is an example of a player upping his draft prospects with a strong performance [in the Senior Bowl]," Nagy told team reporter Ethan Greenberg on Tuesday. "The league gave me a wish-list of guys I want to coach the game. Jeff was at the top of it. When you guys [the Jets coaching staff] were down here three years ago, I was walking by one of the meeting rooms and Jeff was giving his testimonial about what the game means to him.
"Probably being an undrafted player coming down here and going in the third round [No. 86 overall, taken by San Francisco]. That's impactful. So I can sit up there and talk to these players about the power of the Senior Bowl, but when a guy that's lived it and has benefited from it, it means a lot. He's got so much juice. The first practice today [Tuesday] was awesome. So we're fired up to get him down here. It's been fun."
Ulbrich, all 6-0, 240 pounds of him, played 10 seasons and 120 games for the 49ers, making 75 starts and 501 tackles during his NFL playing career.
"He's just real and has a way to connect with the players," Nagy said. "He is a former player, they don't know Jeff was a great linebacker in the league, but they can feel his presence. There's no bs to him, it's all about competition to him. He gave a speech at orientation and even our staff and sponsors ... they're ready to run through a brick wall for him."
Jeff Ulbrich on New Falcons Coach
It would not be inaccurate to call Raheem Morris, the new head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, a coaching lifer.
Still a spry 47 years old, Morris got his start holding clipboards as a graduate assistant at Hofstra University -- the one-time long-time home of the Jets -- as a graduate assistant in 1998. He played safety there from 1994-97 after graduating from Irvington High School in New Jersey.
Morris and Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, the head coach of the National Team at this year's Senior Bowl, crossed paths with the Falcons when they joined the coaching staff in 2015 -- Ulbrich as the linebackers coach and Morris as the assistant head coach and pass game coordinator.
Asked about Morris landing the head job in Atlanta, a team which also recently interviewed Bill Belichick, Ulbrich did not mince words.
"How much time do we got?" Ulbrich said. "Raheem, in my opinion, is the best, if not the best coach that I have ever been around in every way. He is the rare guy that he can connect, he can motivate at a whole different level than most. But he also has this enormous brain, he is very cerebral at the same time. So, they are getting this really cool mixture of both. The best of both worlds which is so rare nowadays. You are getting an elite father, elite husband, an elite friend. He checked every box, they did."
His NFL coaching career began with the Jets in 2001 as a minority intern on the defensive staff. After landing a job with Tampa Bay in 2002, Morris worked his way up the coaching ladder and became the head coach there for a couple of seasons (2009-11). He was back in Atlanta in 2015 when Dan Quinn became the Falcons' head coach. He later helped the Rams win Super Bowl LVI as the team's defensive coordinator (2021-23).
Now he's back in Georgia as the top dog -- joining three other African-Americans (Mike Tomlin, Todd Bowles and DeMeco Ryans) as head coaches in the NFL.
"He has the true heart of a servant," Ulbrich said. "All these years that he has been passed over head-coaching jobs, which he shouldn't have, for whatever the reason. He never was pissed, he never was outrageous. He was like, 'How can I help Dan Quinn?' 'How can I help you?' 'How can I help Sean McVay?' That has always been his mindset and thankfully he has finally been rewarded for that."
Hunting Offensive Lineman
The Jets are one of many teams hunting for help on the offensive line. The Green & White played 13 different combinations of players on the O-line through 17 games, toiling in front of four different quarterbacks.
"It's a great O-line class," the game's executive director Jim Nagy said. "My first year [in charge], 2019, I think we had five first-rounders. This group could surpass that. It's just a really deep tackle class, good interior players, too. I think seven or eight could go in the first round this year.
"If you need O-line help, you can attack it here."
The Jets hold the No. 10 pick in this year's NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-27 in Detroit.
Lance Zuerlein, writing for NFL.com, was high on Oklahoma tackle Tyler Guyton (6-7, 328).
"There will be plenty to choose from inside the first 50 picks of this year's draft," Zuerlein wrote. "Guyton was one of the tackles who had a performance that matched his potential on Tuesday. He has great size and length, and he used both traits to his advantage in shutting down spin moves and bull rushes in one-on-one drills. Guyton is a little light on experience (one season as a full-time starter) but heavy on talent, so Tuesday could mark the beginning of a jump up draft boards."
Nagy also tipped Oregon State tackle Taliese Fuaga (6-6, 334) and Arizona tackle Jordan Morgan (6-5, 312). Other notables include TCU tackle Brandon Coleman (6-6, 330), Texas tackle Christian Jones (6-6, 321) and Marshall's towering redshirt junior Ethan Driskell (6-9, 328).