Sunday's eighth annual RONA Senior Bowl will be the final game for more than a few graduating football players.
For others it will be just another step on their football journey, one that could take them all the way to the CFL.
And that's not the game's organizers blowing smoke. They can say that now that three Senior Bowl alumni are knocking on the CFL's door.
Oak Park's Cory Huclack and Sisler's Lorne Plante, who played in the 2002 Senior Bowl, have signed contracts with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and B.C. Lions, respectively, while Donovan Alexander of St. Paul's, who starred in the 2003 game, was drafted by the Montreal Alouettes earlier this month.
"It gives you a lot of hope, because you know these guys have gone through the same thing you're about to go through," Sisler linebacker Jack Miller said yesterday. "You just hope you do what they did to get to that level."
Miller will suit for Team Lightning in Sunday's all-star game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. at Canad Inns Stadium. Former Bombers Chris Walby and Leo Ezerins, who has flown in from Vancouver for the week, will coach Team Lightning and Team Thunder, respectively.
The contest, which features players from both the Winnipeg High School Football League and the Midget Football League of Manitoba, is sponsored by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Alumni and is the brainchild of former receiver James Murphy.
Senior Bowl chairman Trevor Kennerd couldn't be more proud that three former Senior Bowlers are on the cusp of potential CFL careers. He also hopes they are the first of many who will go on to make a living on the gridiron.
"I hope what happens in Manitoba is kind of the same thing that happened in Quebec," the former Bomber placekicker said. "They had a football renaissance in Quebec, and now their college teams are dominant, the Alouettes are fantastic, CGEP and high school and junior leagues are huge.
"So I think the same thing's kind of happening here in Manitoba."
Miller, who has committed to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, believes those who have gone before him have helped him -- and will help those who come after him.
"A lot more people are looking at Winnipeg now for high school guys coming out," Miller said.
"It helps us a lot because of the Cory Huclacks and the Lorne Plantes. You get noticed more now.
"That's all you need, to get noticed, and then the rest is in your hands."
Thanks to the Bombers alumni's involvement, the youngsters get an opportunity to learn from the best. That's what offensive lineman Chris Bennett, bound for Brian Dobie's University of Manitoba Bisons squad in the fall, is hoping happens when practices get under way tonight.
Even though he's not on Walby's team, the Maples Marauder hopes to bend the Canadian Football Hall of Famer's ear.
"That right there, with me being a lineman and him being a lineman, I could probably learn tons of stuff from him if I get the chance to talk to him," Bennett said.
The MFLM's second annual Gary Stroppa Bowl, featuring the St. Vital Mustangs and North Winnipeg Nomads, will follow the Senior Bowl at 3 p.m.