Since our last segment of “On The Road,” a lot has transpired for our organization. Sandwiched between our scouting of the college All-Star games, which are played right after the conclusion of the bowl season, and the National Invitational Combine, which is held in Indianapolis in late February, was our trip to Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, TX.
I will talk about the All-Star game scouting and the Combine a little later in this segment, but for now I’d like to touch on our trip to the Super Bowl.
First and foremost I would like to congratulate the Green Bay Packers organization on a job well done. Green Bay put forth a great performance, and the Packers are a worthy champion. Being on the losing end of a Super Bowl is a first for me, and it’s not something I’ll ever forget, nor is it something I want to experience again. As I have stated previously: We were good enough for second, but second isn’t good enough. That being said, I couldn’t be more proud of a group of players, coaches and staff, all of whom gave everything they had. I would also like to thank our fans for the outstanding support they gave us during the 2010 season. The support we enjoy is second to none and deeply appreciated. Finishing second never will be acceptable, and it’s with that resolve we have set forth on our plan to improve our team and hopefully have a more successful 2011 season.
After the conclusion of the college bowl season, there are a series of All-Star games played from mid-December through early February.
First up we have the HBCU Classic (Historically Black Colleges), then the Cactus Bowl (Division II), the East-West Shrine (Division I), the Senior Bowl (Division I), and finally the Texas vs. The Nation Game (Division I). Each of these games are run by independent organizations that work in cooperation with the National Football League to put these games together. At times there may be players who participate in more than one of these games, but mostly guys play in one game apiece.
The All-Star games produce an opportunity for our scouting staff to see these players compete against other players of similar talents. The practices are designed more for NFL scouts to evaluate the prospects than they are supposed to prepare the players for the actual All-Star game. One example of this is that in these practice sessions, there are more one-on-one types of drills than you may normally get to see at a typical college practice.
Also, these All-Star games give us the first opportunity to meet, talk to or interview the prospective players. Up to this point, we have been limited to watching them play in a game or on video, with no personal contact. It’s always interesting to get this opportunity to learn more about these players from a personal viewpoint.
Each of our scouts is responsible for evaluating a position that I designated for them. Our scouts will follow a particular position throughout all of these All-Star games, and they are responsible for writing a short report on each. These reports will be read as a supplement to reports written on these players during their college season.
THE NATIONAL INVITATIONAL COMBINE
Commonly known as “The NFL Combine”, the National Invitational Combine is an event in which all of the 32 NFL teams take part. The Combine has been held in Indianapolis for the last 25 years, after previously being hosted in Tempe, Arizona, and New Orleans.
A group of roughly 330 players is invited each year to the Combine. The players who get selected are chosen by National Football Scouting (representing 19 NFL teams), BLESTO (representing 7 NFL teams including the Steelers), and the remaining clubs that work independently of these groups. Each team is asked to supply workers for the Combine to perform various tasks, such as a group leader, timers or transportation assistance.
The purpose of the Combine is four-fold: medical evaluation, physical testing, psychological testing, and personal interviews.
Medical Evaluation: Each player is subject to a thorough orthopedic and internal examination. Each NFL franchise has its own team of doctors who participate in these exams. These doctors will break off into small groups that conduct a specific part of the overall examination, so that a particular player is only subjected to one set of X-rays, for example, or one set of MRIs. Each team then takes all of these findings and ultimately will come up with its own medical grade on each player based on the findings.
Physical Testing: Each player who is physically able is put through a battery of drills designed to measure different levels of strength and athleticism. Included in these drills are a bench press test, flexibility measurements, a 40-yard dash (included in this are a 10-yard time and a 20-yard time collected in the same sprint), a vertical jump, broad jump, short agility (20 yards) and a long agility (60 yards) that’s only administered to the skill-position players. In addition to these measured drills, players are put through position drills to complete their physical testing.
Psychological Testing: Most teams participate in some type of psychological evaluation. These evaluations are done by a team psychologist on players it selects.
Personal Interviews: There are two types of interviews that take place at the Combine. One of these is more of a group-type of interview where players are brought to an area that is usually manned by scouts and position coaches. Teams usually work in groups in this area to interview a player. Questioning is done in a more general type of scenario, but at least some insight can be drawn from these interviews.
The second type of interview that occurs at the Combine is a more personal type, and this is conducted in each team’s individual meeting room. Prior to the Combine, each team is required to submit a list of up to 60 players that it would like to interview. Each of these players then will be available to the particular team for a scheduled 15-minute interview. Usually in these interviews the team is represented by the head coach, GM, coordinators and select scouts. It is always fascinating to me to hear each kid tell us about himself. Sometimes their stories bring you to tears, while at other times you can’t wait to show the player to the door!
All in all, the Combine is a very important phase of our evaluation process. The amount of information gathered over this seven-day period would be impossible to gather if each team tried to do it independently.
Upon returning from Indianapolis our scouting staff began the process of evaluating the video from the Combine and then provide a report and grade that will be part of each player’s final evaluation.
TALES FROM THE ROAD
Not only do our scouts take pride in their evaluation skills, but they also fancy themselves as experts when it comes to the fine art of dining out. With that in mind, we thought it would be appropriate to mention a few of our favorite places to eat while “On the Road”.
No trip to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, would be complete without visits to Wentzel’s Seafood Restaurant and Dreamland Barbeque. No trip to Indianapolis, Indiana, for the Combine would be complete without a visit to St. Elmo’s Steakhouse.
Though our scouts all travel to Indianapolis for the Combine individually, we all return to Pittsburgh together on a bus provided to us by Anderson Bus Lines, and traveling this way allows us a 5-6 hour opportunity to discuss the Combine and get a jump on putting together our spring Pro-Day schedule.
SCOUT QUOTE OF THE DAY
Rather than give you one quote that our scouts will use we thought it would be more interesting to give a quick glossary of some of the more popular terms we use at the Combine:
Muffin Top: Used in reference to a player with some excess weight in his waist.
Big Bubble: Thick thighs and buttocks
High Split: Long legs
Leggy: Usually associated with long legged guys in their movement
Short-Stepper: Short-strider when running
Ground Pounder: Heavy-footed guys when running
Stepping On Ants: Used to describe a defensive back with a choppy backpedal
High point: Defender or receiver’s ability to catch a ball at its peak
Waistbender: Player who is stiff in the hips
Bell Cow: Best of the group
126,000 Miles Traveled - January and February
Another $1,260 has been donated to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society by Bowser Cadillac bringing the total to date to $3,100. Bowser Cadillac is proud to offer a penny per mile as Kevin's group travels around the country.