PENSACOLA, Fla. — Georgia players have yet to take a snap in Senior Bowl workouts, but their Orange Bowl statement win has already put them a step ahead of those who opted-out of bowl games.

Kirby Smart talks a lot about football character and recruiting players who love to compete, and the seven Bulldogs players rolling into Mobile to compete have the receipts to back that up.

Georgia, collectively, has won 42 of its past 44 games while producing two national titles and 35 NFL Draft picks. Another 10 or so UGA players will be invited to the NFL Combine this year and get drafted.

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But there’s even more to the story and potentially millions in hidden value that those players might later cash in on.

Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy explained that the NFL head coaches and general managers -- most of them on hand for Senior Bowl practices, interviews or meetings -- are taking notes on players that go beyond the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft.

“These guys aren’t just being evaluated for this year’s draft,” Nagy told DawgNation. “They are being evaluated on that next contract.”

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Nagy said NFL teams don’t hold it against players when they opt-out of bowl games, but the fact Georgia’s players all opted-in showed a love of team and football that coaches take note of and value greatly, just like Smart.

“It certainly added value,” Nagy said of the Bulldogs’ opting in to an Orange Bowl game that critics claimed was meaningless.

“The league is past knocking players that opt out … (but) I do think it helps the guys that decide to play, it’s like coming to the Senior Bowl.”

It’s not uncommon for projected first-round picks or top players are their positions to opt-out of bowl games or the Senior Bowl, particularly when they are dealing with injuries.

Georgia players Brock Bowers (ankle) and Amarius Mims (ankle) were present at UGA’s 63-3 win over Florida State in the Orange Bowl but didn’t play on account their injuries. Cornerback Kamari Lassiter, a projected first-round pick, also played in the Orange Bowl along with other team leaders.

“Then you’ve got a guy like Sedrick Van Pran, who didn’t have to play in that bowl game, he could have easily opted out,” Nagy said. “He didn’t have to play in that game, but it’s (about) the second contract.”

Van Pran was projected as high as a second-round pick in the NFL Draft, but he may not be appearing as scheduled in the Senior Bowl this week.

Nagy, a scout for 20 years in the NFL, working for Super Bowl teams in New England, Seattle and Green Bay, was once privy to the conversations in coaches’ offices when he wasn’t being asked to give evaluations on the make-up of players, himself.

“Teams do that, go back and say ‘how was he wired coming out? Did he compete every time he had a chance to compete?’ " Nagy explained.

“It’s human nature once you make generational, life-changing money .… to take your foot off the gas a little bit and relax, and what these teams want is a guy that, once you pay them, they push the petal to the metal and keep the pedal down and they play the next four or five years at an All-Pro level.”

That’s where the Georgia players’ background kicks in.

The six players at the Senior Bowl have already showed their makeup by becoming the first-ever team to repeat as CFP Champs, and they carried that into 2023 by winning their first 12 games last season.

Smart’s ability to teach the players to avoid and overcome complacency, even in this age where most all were paid at UGA, adds to their value.

“You look for little windows into a guy’s true makeup and a guy’s true character,” Nagy said. “I think this whole process, from bowl game through the pre-draft process, these guys kind of show themselves.

“If you look closely, you can see patterns of how guys are wired.”

Indeed, Nagy said NFL teams are challenged to determine which players are worthy of those large second contracts that Smart always talks about to his players.

“The hardest part for the team is the guy goes through the first four or five years on his first deal, and they pay those guys, but they’re not making life-changing money at that point,” Nagy said.

“You’re not making eight or nine figures (until the second contract), so they want to find guys that love football and really want to compete.”