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GWINNETT GRADS: A look at local stars from the college football bowl season

While their football team didn’t get a victory, a pair of Gwinnett products played well for Auburn in its heartbreaking 34-31 loss to Florida State in the final BCS Championship Game late Monday night.

North Gwinnett’s C.J. Uzomah, a junior tight end, had a key six-yard catch on third-and-four in the first quarter to set up Auburn’s first touchdown. He also had a short catch on the game’s final play before making the first of a series of laterals as the Tigers attempted a miraculous play for a victory.

Norcross grad Ben Bradley also had a strong game, most notably stripping Florida State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of the ball in the second quarter. A teammate recovered the forced fumble at the FSU 27-yard line, setting up an Auburn score and a 21-3 lead. The junior defensive tackle also stuffed Seminoles running back James Wilder Jr. at his own 2 on his team’s previous defensive series.

Uzomah, an All-SEC selection, finished the season with 11 catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner in the waning seconds vs. Mississippi State. Bradley had two tackles for losses, a sack and five quarterback hurries in his first season after transferring from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

Former Hutchinson teammate and Parkview grad Kenny Flowers also played for Auburn on kickoff returns and kickoff coverage. Parker Conley, a senior walk-on from Norcross, didn’t play but earned a national title ring as a part of the FSU roster.

The final college football game capped a busy bowl season for Gwinnett, which had 84 locals on the rosters of bowl teams.

Here’s a look at some other top performers from Gwinnett from the bowl season:

• Justyn Shackleford, Tulane

The Berkmar grad caught two passes for 63 yards, but his team fell just short in a 24-21 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.

• Zach Davis, Tulane

Davis, a Collins Hill grad, also played well in Tulane’s bowl. He had four tackles, three of them solos and one for a loss.

• Trent Tignor, East Carolina

The punter from Mill Creek was one of the stars in a 37-20, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl victory over Ohio. He had five punts for a 43.8-yard average, putting two inside the 20-yard line.

• Cameron Lynch, Syracuse

The Brookwood grad made a team-high eight tackles (six solos), with two for losses and a sack, in Syracuse’s 21-17 win over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl. The linebacker also forced a fumble.

• George Morris, Syracuse

Morris, a Central Gwinnett grad, carried eight times for 34 yards, all in the second half, of Syracuse’s win.

• Nathan Staub, North Carolina

The Buford grad made six tackles, one for a loss and one sack, in UNC’s 39-17 win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.

• Silverberry Mouhon, Cincinnati

The defensive end from Norcross was a rare bright spot in the Bearcats’ loss, making four tackles, two for losses.

• Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche, the nation’s top defensive line recruit in the Class of 2013 out of Grayson, made five tackles (four solos) in the Rebels’ 25-17 win over Georgia Tech.

• Cameron Whigham, Ole Miss

In his last college game, the Shiloh grad had three solo tackles and two quarterback hurries vs. Tech.

• Robert Nelson, Arizona State

Nelson, a senior defensive back from North Gwinnett had two solo tackles and a pass breakup in his final game, a 37-23 loss to Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl. He also had 139 return yards on six kickoffs and two punts.

• Vadal Alexander, LSU

The Buford grad, LSU’s starter at left guard, paved the way for Jeremy Hill’s 216 rushing yards in a 21-14, Outback Bowl win over Iowa.

• Stephen Weatherly, Vanderbilt

One of the defensive stars in Vandy’s 41-24 win over Houston in the BBVA Compass Bowl, the Shiloh grad made four solo tackles, two for losses, with a sack and two quarterback hurries.

Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com.