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.
On February 20th at 10:04 AM, I get a text from Matthew Cannata: “Holy s***, holy s***, holy s***.”
This could mean any number of things: he has a podcast idea, NFL news just broke, or most likely at that point in the day, he farted and wanted us to know.
“We got credentialed for the Combine.”
“Sutton, can you go?”
Could I convince my wife to leave her alone with four children for three days and three nights on nine days notice? I went down the mental checklist. Have I said anything stupid lately? No. Trash and laundry up-to-date? For the most part, I think. Not get her pregnant again? Check. Didn’t she just have a week where she was working late and I was “Daddy Day Care”? Damn Aaron, you’re smart, timing is palpable.
I make the call. Not only does it work, she orders my hotel for me.
And it hits me: you’re going to the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Over the next eight days, I couldn’t stop thinking about the NFL Combine to the point that my other sensory modalities stopped working. Call me Charlie Brown — everybody and everything not related to the Combine was my teacher saying, “womp womp.”
Each day crossed off the calendar opened up the gaping avalanche of questions for which I had no answers. As much as I searched for what people did at the Combine, I couldn’t find anything. No one has blogged about this yet? Am I allowed to go to Lucas Oil and watch the drills there? Were there different levels of credentials, and would I be in the “get picked last in kickball” section?
NFL Combine Answers? Anyone?
I spent the next few days in a mental prison of sorts, like Dostoevsky’s “Man From Underground.” I knew I’d see prospects, but when and for how long? How many other media members would be there? Would it be a mad dash to the podiums for location supremacy?
My exuberance unquenchable, my style impetuous, my defense impregnable (thankth Mike Tython) — but the questions started to weigh me down.
Before you knew it, I’m picking up my Pro Football Network custom-made polo shirt and heading towards Columbus to stay with family. There was no turning back.
I wake up the next morning, hop in the shower, realize I forgot my toothbrush, curse under my breath, and make my way towards Indianapolis.
Again, I began asking questions. Will I find trouble parking? Why did I forget to bring cash? That’s not good, what if you need cash to get out of the parking lot? Check-in at the hotel isn’t until 3:00 PM – how long can you park your car? What if this is some big misunderstanding, and I’m going to get denied at the gates? What if I drive all this way, just to spend a bunch of money and get railroaded?
Trivium’s “Into the Mouth of Hell We March” echoed at a reasonably high volume — no wife = loud music. The verse/chorus leading into the solo triggered something in my body that made me do something I hadn’t done in years.
No, there weren’t any onions in the car.
I needed to cry. Well, almost.
The last time I cried I thought I was going to have to put my dog down for biting my son about five years ago, but we didn’t.
As I headed into that parking garage, my eyes welled up as large as they possibly could without falling into my bottom eyelash. My body had had enough — it finally told me to just let it out and say f*** it. I emerged from my chrysalis, my catharsis complete. Keep it simple, be a student, be yourself. Everything turned from pressure to schooling, anxiety to opportunity.
I find a parking spot and head into the Indiana Convention Center to pick up my credentials for the Combine.
The guy working the table looks like a cross between the guy who records the plastic bag in American Beauty and Screech Powers from Saved by the Bell. He hands me a series of documents, my credentials, and we high-five, minus the high-five part.
I enter the media room, the security guard looks at me and nods. I’m in.
It was so quiet at first. It felt like it was my first day of school. As people trickled into the media workroom, I tried to inconspicuously look up to see if I recognized anyone.
Am I allowed to watch the players? Where do I go? What do I do with my hands? I have this media credential. Now what? I set up my laptop, and manufacture ways to pretend like I’m doing something, but I’m really just looking around to see who is here.
All of a sudden I start seeing the names on the badges, like my eyes finally oriented to the image in one of those 3-D paintings. Don Banks, Sam Farmer, Doug Farrar, Jeff Legwold, and Clay Allen. OK, this is kind of cool.
I snap out of my daze, beginning to prepare for the interviews. It dawns on me, that despite all the random cords, extra pairs of socks, general preparation, and enough underwear to crap myself two times a day and still be in good shape, I have no pen. How the hell do you come to the Combine and not have something to write with?
I start searching for a receptionist desk on the floor below the credentialed media room to ask for a pen.
Surfing on my cell phone, I reach the bottom of the escalator and mindlessly walk forward. I look up, and there’s Ian Rapoport.
I accidentally walked into the gauntlet.
Come back tomorrow for the next part of Sutton’s behind the scenes look at the NFL Scouting Combine.