What Locals Can Expect At The NFL Combine
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Every year the best 335 collegiate football players gather together in Indianapolis, Indiana to showcase their talents in front of NFL executives.
This year the state of Utah will send nine former college stars to the event.
The process is grueling, long and exhausting. I know that from experience, as I was invited to attend the Combine in 2016.
Here’s the experience from how I remember it:
The Trip To Indy
Because the Combine was a 1,521 mile journey from Salt Lake City, us Utah players arrived on Sunday.
Here is a direct email I received back on January 8th, 2016:
“In an attempt to reduce scheduling challenges and personal fatigue you may incur due to the distance you have to travel, you have been selected to arrive in Indianapolis the evening before your group’s scheduled arrival at the Combine. We would like to help you avoid having a very long first day/night waiting for medical examinations and make the traveling more comfortable for you. By arriving early, you will be well rested and can begin your medical examinations the next morning. This will reduce the length of your exam, minimize the wait time between tests and improve your overall experience.
Once we arrived in Indianapolis, we checked into the hotel, picked up your bag of goodies (workout gear, clothes, badges etc.) and got settled. Sunday was the day to relax.
As it turned out, the hotel they put us in was also a train station. Every two hours the building shook to indicate the arrival or departure of a train as the station was positioned underground underneath the hotel.
This is the only day that we got to wake up at a reasonable time. I woke up at 9 am excited and ready to go, not knowing what to expect but eager nonetheless to have a big week.
I was headed over to the hospital before the majority of athletes as I arrived early. I started the grueling process of medical exams, which featured everything from blood tests to an electrocardiogram test to eye exams. The list went on, and on.
Going to the hospital before the Combine began cleared us from any potential harm.
Monday night was also the first night that I spoke with teams. Most of the players had set one on one interviews in private rooms with head coaches and general managers, for the specialists like me however, I bounced around tables answering questions from scouts and special teams coaches. This process took place every night and lasted deep into the evening.
By the time Tuesday morning came around, we had our first meetings with all athletes and the administration from the NFL Players Association. We were given the run down of the week and what to expect.
This was very eye opening. I quickly realized the sleep in I was able to enjoy on Monday would not take place the rest of the week.
Once the meeting was over, I raced over to the hospital and to continue working on the medical exams that I was unable to finish on Monday. Fortunately, I was able to get the majority of them done the day before.
Upon returning from the hospital I took part in a few small physical tests. One of them was a leg and arm power test that determined how explosive a player was and also measured our fast twitch fibers.
After dinner, I endured another couple hours of meetings with scouts, coaches and general managers.
Wednesday was the big one when it came to medical tests.
The players entered single file into a large room and started filling out paperwork of your family medical history. I then went into a private tent and had some extremely personal exams taken. Needless to say, I was put in a very vulnerable state.
Then I received a piece of paper that was filled with columns. I had eight different rooms to attend, with the majority of rooms full of team doctors. Because they could not put all the team doctors in one big room, they were split up, thus making life miserable for us players. Depending on the room, it took upwards of an hour just to get into the room. Once inside, I laid down on a training table and told the doctor of any previous injuries I had suffered.
Embarrassingly, I told the doctors that my most severe injury was a bruised big toe from kicking a cold and hard football as well as some minor quadriceps strains. This revelation generally brought the room into laughter. I guess they were expecting more severe injuries from me.
I was also fortunate to then go back to the hospital and take part in a ‘stress test’. My electrocardiogram scan came back with a minor heart murmur that had the team doctors debating whether or not to put me through a stress test. They decided to take the safe approach and put me through it in the end.
‘We Need You To Take A Stress Test’
A stress test is something where players are hooked up with all sorts of chords and made to either run on a treadmill or ride a exercise bike until exhaustion. This process generally takes 20 minutes, with every couple of minutes increasing the speed of the treadmill or velocity of the bike.
By the time this was over I could barely walk, I was absolutely fatigued.
I passed the test and was cleared to punt footballs (which just so happened to be the next day) despite not being able to feel my legs.
I made sure to hit an ice bath in my hotel room that evening in a final effort to feel capable of punting the next day.
Later on, it was another round of meetings, answering the same questions as the night before.
‘I’m Kicking, Essentially Pigskin’
Thursday morning was the day I turned into a catwalk model.
I stripped down to my underwear and had photos taken of my physique. I was also are measured for your height and weight in front of a gallery of NFL team personnel, all carrying notebooks and writing every detail down.
Sometime early afternoon was the big show for us specialists. This was when we had a shot to make some money. It was time to showcase our best talent.
Us punters had 15 balls to prove their worth. The kickers have 15 kicks to do the same. Both groups also took part in hitting some kickoffs.
The workout was eerie, it was dead quite inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts. The only sound heard were the thumps of footballs being smacked by both punters and kickers. Occasionally we could hear the breath of the long snapper after he fires balls between his legs.
That evening I went out to dinner with the then-San Diego Chargers special teams coach and then blew off some much need steam. I was relieved it was all over, kicking-wise.
The real athletic stuff was supposed to begin the next day. The 40 yard dash, the L-drill and other speed based drills all went down in front of the scouts.
I however, chose to go home.
Known to Utah fans for waddling down the field like a penguin, I figured that I was better off not participating.
As mentally exhausting as the week was, I would do it all over again if given the opportunity. The experience alone was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Best of luck to all of the athletes attending the Combine this week, your world is about to crash on top of you but remember, there is always light at the end of the tunnel!