The final day of the 2023 Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL was a chilly one. The players from both the American and National rosters were given one more opportunity to prove to the NFL scouts that they belong at the next level. J.L. Skinner from Boise State was a player who caught my eye on the final day. Skinner is a safety and had some good measurables as he began his week in Mobile. The Boise State product weighed in at 211 pounds, and is 6-foot-4 with a 77 7/8″ wingspan. Skinner was First Team All-Mountain West in 2022.
During the 2022 season, Skinner started in 12 games. In those 12 games, he recorded 65 tackles (including 36 solo), four interceptions, and four passes defended. Skinner also participated in track and field as well as basketball in high school.
After practice yesterday, I was able to talk to Skinner and ask him about how playing basketball in high school has guided him in his efforts to make it to the NFL.
J.L. Skinner from Boise State talks about how playing basketball has helped him in his journey to the NFL, and how he did this week in Mobile. My favorite interview of the week. #BillsMafia #Cover1SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/g06triiloR— Ajay Cybulski (@AjayCybulski) February 3, 2023
“Honestly, playing basketball in high school, you get a lot of crowd noise and such like that,” Skinner said. “You’re real close to everybody so at that moment you gotta learn how to block that stuff out. So, for me that’s probably the biggest thing mentally. Just learning how to block out that outside noise, and how to really stay focused in the moment. Because in high school people are literally one step behind your bench, so being able to ignore that and really continue to play, that’s where it helped me a lot for sure.”
Skinner was not a big man on the court in high school.
“I was a guard,” he said. “I was a guard. Yeah, I wasn’t a center or anything like that. Don’t do that. I was a guard. I was where I was supposed to be so.”
Being as adamant as he was about playing guard in high school, I’m sure that was the position he loved to play, and had an advantage due to his 6-foot-4 frame.
Skinner then went on to talk about the competitive nature of being down in Mobile, and how he thought he performed this week.
“I feel like I did alright, you know. I lost some reps. I won some reps. That’s what you do when you go against elite [competition]. As long as you keep going and learn from each rep, I feel like you had a good week, and that’s what I feel like I did,” Skinner said.
Given the rate at which offenses pass the ball in today’s NFL, the nickel defense (sets with five defensive backs on the field) has become increasingly popular. Given his frame, Skinner, on paper, is a natural fit to play some ‘big nickel’ at the professional level, something he is more than willing to do.
“That’s another backer position I would say,” he said. “I would be down there in the box being willing to play that for sure.”
Wherever Skinner ends up, he has a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove at the next level.