The NFL Scouting Combine took place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. For players, it’s a chance for them to impress NFL teams as they vie for a spot on the biggest stage. For reporters, it’s a chance to talk to players, coaches, network, and yes, even hang out at the bars with front office executives and coaches. Pro Football Network was fortunate and honored to be credentialed for this event. In this multi-part series, Aaron Sutton gives you a behind the scenes look at what goes on at the NFL Scouting Combine.
In walks Kyler Murray — the most saturated media presence at any podium for the entire Combine in my three days surrounded him. That’s not shocking. Me walking away from Murray’s pandemonium to go talk to Clayton Thorson, quarterback from Northwestern? You might thinketh that as weird.
Hey, I didn’t come to the Combine to take some passive videos from the back row.
I talked to Clayton for a few minutes. A family friend of his reached out to me after I posted the video to Twitter, basically corroborating the good vibes I absorbed from the interview. I’d go on to speak with Stanley Morgan, WR from Nebraska, and Irv Smith, TE from Alabama.
What you don’t see, but you feel, is the “dance” of each interview. Getting in a question with a prospect at the podium lies in the art of timing the completion of their response. If you match the timing with the appropriate volume and/or body language, you own the floor.
Time to reflect on Friday’s interviews with a beer
The three-hour interview session of QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s had concluded for the day. I couldn’t wait for two things:
- Cold. Freaking. Beer.
- Writing my notes, thinking that all of the learning happened and I was just going to dinner that night.
St. Elm’s Steakhouse and Prime 47 were the two spots in Indianapolis, so we get back to the hotel about 6:30 p.m. and take a snowball’s chance in Hell that one of these places had reservations. Prime 47 informs us that, yes, they indeed have a reservation.
It’s for 10:30 p.m.
Uhhh, sure? Excuse me, did you say 10:30? You did? OK, we’ll be there!
We’re looking around at each other like we just got high for the first time. I can’t say I’ve ever eaten a $60 steak at nearly 11:00 at night, but I guess we’re doing this. The plan quickly becomes: let’s show up at 9:00 and see if we can get to the bar.
We somehow find one seat at the bar, Chris sits down. Brett and I are in line for a drink. We get our drink. We sip our drink. Life is good.
After we “ahhh” from that first sip of whiskey, we look over and realize we’re standing next to Eric Dickerson.
There’s a quick debriefing to ensure his identity. We’re able to confirm it is, indeed, Eric Dickerson. Brett offers him a drink.
He says yes. (He gets a lemon drop, by the way — the big luxurious kind in a martini glass, with sugar around the rim of the glass).
We start talking, and yes I don’t hide the fact that I wanted the New England Patriots to lose in the Super Bowl — he did, too.
I start the night talking to a Hall of Famer. Go ahead and call it quits?
Thinking it can’t get any more surreal, I’m talking to the richest, fanciest people I’ve met in the last 10 years and I hear two guys behind me ask for a Coors Light.
Coors Light, in this place? I’m not above cheap beer (except Bud Light), but at Prime 47?
I turn around and it’s Brian Hartline and his brother. I’m born and raised a Buckeyes fan, and managed to become a Miami Dolphins fan by the time I was 5 (way less common than being a Buckeyes fan living in southeast Ohio). Hartline was a rare “double whammy”.
Oh, and Jeff Ireland interrupted our conversation.
More bullish****ng, a picture with Willie McGinest and Steve Smith here, a sighting of Sean Payton there, and we’re headed back to our table.
Steak. Drink glasses clinking. Hannah Storm and Jeff Darlington are talking. Laughs. Asparagus. Kyle Rudolph biceps and triceps literally form a sphere. Chilling with our waiter. Shots. Dessert. It was all a blur.
12:30/1:00 in the morning, we cringe at the check, use our credit card so we get that 2% cash back and somehow execute the mental gymnastics needed to resolve our middle-class income with this spending spree, and make our way back through the crowd.
We leave the table to find out John Elway has been standing behind us at a nearby table, drink in hand. Michael Irvin is chatting with someone at the end of the bar.
Waking up the next morning, we turn on the TV to the Saturday drills at the Combine. The cameras fan to John Elway sitting up in his booth. I smiled, knowing that I was one of the few people on planet Earth that knew he probably still had the stench of alcohol on his breath.