When former Central Michigan safety Jahleel Addae takes the field for the 88th annual East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, he’ll have one of the biggest cheering sections of any player.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Addae played high school football in Valrico, Fla., less than an hour away from Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla, where the game will be played.
“I have about 6o people coming,” Addae said. “There’s even more people buying tickets though. Having my last official college game in the Tampa area where I grew up is awesome. Especially since it’s going to be in front of the people who have loved and supported me from the beginning.”
Addae, who received All-Conference honors in three-straight season at CMU, will play for Team West coached by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Leeman Bennett.
The East-West Shrine Game is the country’s longest-running college all-star game. The game’s proceeds are donated to 22 different Shriner’s Hospitals for Children around the country. As part of the game, players paid a visit to the hospital in the Tampa area.
“The fact that it’s in the Tampa area where I’m from was special,” Addae said. “We got to touch the hearts of a lot of young kids that have been going through a lot, so that was truly a blessing.”
Over the years, the East-West Shrine Game has featured some of the country’s best talent, and this year is no different, with players such as Kansas State quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein and two-time First-Team Big East running back Ray Graham participating.
“It’s cool being around these guys,” Addae said. “Every Saturday, once your game is over, you watch other prospects around the country. Being able to compete with these guys is awesome.”
Addae received an invitation to the game via e-mail. In 2012 he finished third on the team with 89 tackles. He also tied for the Mid-American Conference lead with four interceptions.
Most experts have Addae projected to be a mid-to-late round draft selection. Addae said he has talked to a number of NFL teams including the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts.
This weekend is an opportunity for Addae to improve his draft stock.
“Lot’s of teams are evaluating me,” Addae said. “I want to impress any doubters or people who don’t think players from mid-majors like CMU can’t compete with these guys. I want to put out a good showing.”
Addae added that he is still getting used to the fact that his CMU career is over. Still, he is embracing the opportunities the future may hold.
“It’s been crazy,” Addae said. “I’ve met a lot of people and made a lot of close friends at CMU. The process has been different. It’s crazy to think that I’m not going to be in a Central Michigan uniform anymore. It’s become my second home, but I’m moving on. God has a plan for me and I’m ready to embark on it.”
Kickoff from Tropicana Field is set for 4 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the NFL Network.