Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On Saturday, the University of Montana defensive stars Patrick O’Connell and Justin Ford made a huge impact on their fellow players, the coaches, and most of all the NFL scouts in attendance at the 77th annual Hula Bowl game in Orlando, Florida.

Justin Ford Started the Hula Bowl Game ahead of Players from Larger Schools

Ford started the Bowl game in front of several other players from larger schools and had three pass breakups, proving why opposing teams simply stopped throwing in his direction while Ford was on the field.

O’Connell had four unassisted tackles in the first half, also making a big impact on the nationwide TV audience and the pro scouts.

KGVO News spoke to UM Associate Athletic Director for football Eric Taber about the game played in Orlando, Florida on Saturday.

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“The Hula Bowl is one of the oldest of these all-star games and our cornerback Justin Ford and linebacker Pat O'Connell both went down to Orlando to compete in this year's All-Star game and they really just had an awesome game, both of them,” began Taber.

Taber said as exciting as it was to see those Griz football helmets on the field during the actual Hula Bowl game, it was the week of practice and preparation where Ford and O’Connell had the chance to impress the coaches and NFL scouts.

“You know the game is kind of the icing on the cake for these guys but the practices are really the important part of the week down there,” he said. “That's where scouts are looking to see what their practice habits are like, and finding out how they match up in one on one situations in particular drills. The game itself is just really more for fun.”

KGVO spoke to Patrick O'Connell on Wednesday while he was in Orlando, Florida

KGVO was unable to reach Justin Ford; however, Montana native Patrick O’Connell shared his experience at the Hula Bowl.

“It was also different because I was playing a whole different position than when I played in college,” said O’Connell. “At the University of Montana I'd come off the edge or come on a lot of blitzes in a lot of our games. However, at the Hula Bowl I was playing the true Mike linebacker, the true inside linebacker, which was fun to get to play and get to know that position as well.”

O'Connell plans to Return to Missoula for UM's Pro Day in Early April

O’Connell laid out his plans for the next few months as he continues to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft.

“I'll be down here for two months, just training and lifting and then the next step will be to come back to Missoula for the Pro Day, and then hopefully perform well there. We'll see what happens with the draft or in free agency or whoever wants to come get me. I'll go there.”

O’Connell told KGVO News he has already met with NFL scouts from the Dallas Cowboys, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chicago Bears, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Green Bay Packers.

According to the University of Montana Sports Information, Ford reportedly met with a long list of NFL teams during the week in the lead-up to Saturday's game, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Buffalo Bills, and the Chicago Bears.

University of Montana Pro Day will be in early April, (the exact date has not yet been set) and the NFL draft is scheduled for April 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri.

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