MOBILE, Ala. - Chris Weinke fondly remembers his days as a quarterback for the Panthers.
Weinke, who retired from the NFL in 2007, is back in football, as director of the fledgling IMG Madden Football Academy in Florida.
"I knew once I was done playing that at some point I'd be back involved in the game because I always had a passion," Weinke said while attending Senior Bowl practices this week. "Running this program, I'm acting as a head coach and really as a GM - I'm responsible for the business side as well as creating the curriculum.
"My ultimate goal is to get an opportunity to be at a major university or possibly the NFL. I'm laying the groundwork right now."
The academy, led by Weinke and senior advisor John Madden, opened less than a year ago with the primary goal of teaching young players the fundamentals of their position to help them progress toward playing in college. Weinke and his staff also work with college and pro players.
After playing six years of minor league baseball, Weinke became the oldest Heisman Trophy winner following the 2000 season, capturing the award as Florida State's quarterback at the age of 28.
The Panthers picked Weinke in the fourth round of the 2001 draft, and he spent six seasons with the team before ending his career with the San Francisco 49ers in 2007.
"Mr. (Jerry) Richardson and the Panthers were the team that gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of playing in the NFL," Weinke said. "I was very fond of my time in Carolina. I spent six years there and enjoyed every minute of it. I still follow them and wish them the best."
NOTABLE APPEARANCES: Weinke wasn't the only person with Panthers' ties spotted at practices for the Senior Bowl, which will kick off Saturday at 4 p.m. on the NFL Network.
In fact, Weinke wasn't even the only former Panthers quarterback on the scene. Frank Reich, now quarterbacks coach for the Indianapolis Colts, was in town.
Others spotted in Mobile included Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, a Mobile native; former safeties Marlon McCree and Marquand Manuel; and former scout Bucky Brooks, a University of North Carolina and NFL wide receiver turned analyst for NFL.com and the NFL Network.
On the coaching side, those on hand ranged from Joe Pendry - the first offensive coordinator in team history who just retired from coaching following four seasons at Alabama – to 2010 Panthers coaches John Fox, Dave Magazu, Jeff Rodgers, Richard Smith and Tyke Tolbert.
TIGER TRIO: Pendry was Panthers offensive coordinator when the team played its home games during its inaugural season at Clemson's Memorial Stadium.
At the Senior Bowl, three Clemson players are trying to catch the eye of NFL scouts: defensive backs Marcus Gilchrist and DeAndre McDaniel and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins.
"You've just got to come out here ready and just do what you've done for four years in college," said Jenkins, who grew up less than five miles from the Clemson campus. "It's a business interview. You've got to come prepared and be ready to play at all times."
The ACC has 17 players competing in the Senior Bowl, including Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich and North Carolina defensive backs Kendric Burney and Da'Norris Searcy.
SWEET HOME ALABAMA: Florida State offensive lineman Rodney Hudson, a rock-solid prospect on the South squad, is enjoying a homecoming during Senior Bowl week.
Wednesday was "Rodney Hudson Day" as B.C. Rain High School in Mobile, where Hudson starred.
"It's something I've always thought about, coming back and playing in the Senior Bowl," Hudson said. "It's an honor."
Hudson said he took in many a Senior Bowl in his youth, sometimes sitting on the front row.
"I can remember seeing Kevin Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson and Matt Leinart and Cadillac Williams come through here," Hudson said. "I remember all those games."