When people ask me about the NFL Scouting Combine, they’re often referring to the activity that occurs on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf. In fact, it’s really the only thing that most people mention to me, which I’m totally cool with because that’s why I want to be there, in all honesty. But, in now my second year coming to Indianapolis, I’ve realized that the on field work that we see on NFL Network is just one of many pieces that draws so many of us to the great Midwest.
The people we all see on TV every day. The people that write the articles that we peruse every day. The people that we listen to daily.
Those people are ALL right here in Indianapolis. Look over there, it’s Bears General Manager Ryan Pace. When we interviewed Greg Bedard of SI.com, Rex Ryan was at the Bills table right next to us doing his interview. He was feet away. It’s like that wherever you look.
It makes for a fun week, but the true purpose of being here is showcasing the next level talent that will enter the NFL in 2016. That said, here are some observations from the day...c’mon, you think a big event would happen without me putting together as Bill O’Brien says “Johnny’s 65 observations”?
Of course not. It just won’t be 65 of them.
1. Kansas State C/G/T prospect Cody Whitehair might have been the most impressive looking football dude of the day. His thighs, calves and quads were just massive. He looked like a brick house that can handle 300 pund angry defensive linemen like it’s nothing.
2. Arkansas running back Jonathan Williams talked with me about the impact of the Texas Bowl back in 2014 and how much it meant to him to beat Texas. Then, I asked him about the atmosphere in that game. His eyes just lit up and this huge grin came over his face. He didn’t even have to say any more - it was lit.
3. NFL Films legend Greg Cosell sat down with Marc and myself to talk about the quarterback class of 2016. Before we started, we asked if he had done any studying of that class yet. He then opened a file and started rifling through his notes. And, you thought I wrote a lot. Cosell had two to three page typed notes on each draft-worthy quarterback. That guy is a film junkie and I love him for that, plus he’s just a great dude.
4. Michigan C/G Graham Glasgow mentioned something that I hadn’t heard of but would steal if I ever went back to coaching. He said his Michigan offensive lineman coach back in the spring essentially assigned each lineman an NFL player to study. Glasgow’s assignment was to study Alex Mack and learn certain aspects from Mack that he could utilize in his game going forward. I thought that was genius and made sure to write that in my notes to use at a later date.
5. Ole Miss left tackle Laremy Tunsil was asked how he felt about being the number one pick for the Tennessee Titans. He responded “I’d love to play in Tennessee. It’s close to Ole Miss. It would be a great place to be.” Asked a little while later about playing in San Diego “Oh, it would be great to play in San Diego”. I guess he’s got to cover his bases but I assume he would feel the same way about every city with a top ten pick.
6. During Tunsil’s interview, he was asked about Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche who had a handful of off the field issues. When the media member finished his question, Tunsil beamed “People don’t know about Robert, he’s a great guy. Everyone has hiccups.” It was really the only time that Tunsil seemed defensive or angry in the slightest during his media session. But, I can appreciate that he had his teammate's back.
7. When Tunsil was at the podium, it was announced that 2015 Heisman Trophy runner Derrick Henry was going to the other podium. Then a minute later, it was announced that Notre Dame's C.J. Prosise was at table five. I didn’t even know who to listen to, but the difference in having a potential left tackle at No. 1 this year and a quarterback at No. 1 like last year was quite evident. When Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota had their podium sessions last year, there wasn’t room to breathe. But, once Henry came in and then Prosise, Tunsil was speaking to a 1/5th of what Winston and/or Mariota spoke to last year.
8. Florida runner Kelvin Taylor, facially, looks so much like his Pops former Gator star/Jaguar star Fred Taylor. I did a double take when I saw him sitting at the table. He noted that his dad was a huge aide in this entire college-to-the-NFL process. Asked what was the one thing his dad stressed more than anything, Taylor responded “take care of your body.” It sounds simple but of the 250+ players that come to Indy for the Combine, 40-45% of them have no clue how to do that in a professional manner. Not only that, they don’t even understand that it’s something they MUST do. That’s something veterans, almost 100% of them when prompted, will tell you; it’s the one thing they had to realize to stay in the league a significant amount of time.
9. Head coaches and General Managers took the podium as well on Wednesday, but nothing truly earth shattering came out of those meetings with the media. Rick Smith and Bill O’Brien will have their day Thursday.
10. Many Combine participants get asked what’s the wildest or stupidest question you get asked in team interviews, but I know UCLA's Paul Perkins’s likely answer probably came during his media table session. A media member asked “so after your 4 am drug test, what did you do?” Really? NO, really that was the question. I wanted Perkins to be a smart aleck so badly, but he just said “I just went back to sleep.” Seriously, someone in our media midst...okay, I’ll stop there.
11. On the way back from Lucas Oil Stadium to the hotel, the heavens opened up and dropped snow all over the place. It was awesome and I captured it all on Periscope. But, as I was filming the reaction of our guys to the snow, a huge UPS truck flew by and hit us with ice, water and whatever he/she could splash on us for standing too close to the street. That was, actually, awesome. It made me one with the weather. I mean, c’mon, when will we see snow in Houston again? It’s still flurry-ing outside as write these observations.
12. Last year, the NFL issued 1,100 media credentials for the Combine. When Marc asked one of the NFL guys in charge how many were issued this year, he said “I don’t know the actual number, but it’s WELL beyond 1,100.” This has become the place to be for media of all types. We saw a pair from Michigan State’s SID office - shout out to John and Ryan. Andy Staples from SI.com who typically covers college football was there. But most every team had some sort of group on hand, but we’re one of about a dozen or more lined up to do radio on radio row.
13. So, on the day - we interviewed Greg Cosell from NFL Films, Greg Bedard from SI.com, John Clayton from ESPN, Dane Brugler from CBSSports.com, Dan Dakich from 1070 The Fan in Indy, not to mention numerous players and participants. We’ll interview Rick and OB on Thursday, in addition, to many more personality types in the building.
There won’t be great stuff happening until everyone gets on the field, but it was a productive and enlightening first day. Well, okay, enlightening is a little strong but you get the picture. See you tomorrow everyone!