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Purdue's Ja'Whaun Bentley Taking Senior Bowl Experience In Stride

Standout Purdue linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley has been all over the field for the North Team defense this week as it prepares for Saturday’s 69th annual Senior Bowl game. What is he getting out of this huge opportunity?


MOBILE, Ala. —Ja'Whaun Bentley: arrow up.

After earning Defensive MVP honors in Purdue's victory over Arizona in the Foster Farms Bowl Dec. 27, the senior linebacker has been able to carry that momentum back onto the field this week in Mobile, Ala., the host city once again for the 69th annual Senior Bowl.

Bentley told after Thursday's North Team practice that he's been able to take the whole Senior Bowl experience in stride, as he's focused on looking sharp both on the field and in various interviews and conversations with NFL team personnel folks looking to be wowed with the 2018 NFL Draft now just three months away.

"It's been fun," Bentley said. "First of all, you want to come out here and you want to try to make it as fun as you can, knowing it's a business trip, though. It's good to be out here, play with some of the best guys — go against some of the best guys. It's definitely been an experience, and right now I'm not done, so I'm just looking forward to the next opportunity."

Bentley this past season was a stat sheet stuffer for the Purdue defense, as he led the entire team with 97 total tackles, 11.5 of which were for a loss, while he also had three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a sack, though his highlight play came Oct. 7, when he returned an interception 76 yards to the house to help seal a conference victory over Minnesota.

He earned Foster Farms Bowl Defensive MVP honors after racking up eight tackles (two for a loss) and his first-career sack in Purdue's 38-35 victory over Arizona.

Primarily lined up as an inside linebacker for the Boilermakers, Bentley has spent a good amount of his time as an outside linebacker this week in preparations for Saturday's game against the South squad, which is a challenge he's certainly embraced.

"I would describe myself as a versatile player, first of all," he said. "I played probably exclusively middle linebacker, a little bit outside, but today, now for this team I'm playing almost exclusively outside. So I get to show my versatility a little bit. (I'm) having fun with it; always wanted to play a little bit of outside, always want to play a little bit of middle, play both just basically to take advantage of everything. I'm taking in the coaching and I'm enjoying myself."

Taking that coaching will be the critical next step on Saturday. With the Denver Broncos' coaching staff leading the North Team against the Houston Texans-coached South Team, Bentley said he's well aware of the fact that NFL scouts want to see players with the ability to take what they've learned in practice and apply it in a game setting.

"It's very important," Bentley said. "You've got to show that you're able to take coaching, that if there are changes made in the middle of the game, are you able to go out on the field and handle the tasks that they give you? Can you retain information? Can you recognize concepts? Things like that, that definitely come into play on gameday and throughout practice."

Then come the formal and informal interviews with the NFL teams, some of which could end up being just as important as his on-field production this week.

Bentley said he always remembers just to "act like your mom raised you" in those settings.

"I would say you have to approach everything as a job interview," he said. "Some are formal, some are informal, but you have to approach them the same (and) kind of put your best foot forward in everything that you do just as well as you can.

"I would say I don't get nervous too much," Bentley continued. "I've spent a lot of time in front of the camera so I'm kind of used to it at this point, but you just have to approach it like a job interview."

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