Their 15 minutes of fame

Posted Mar 1, 2018

The NFL Scouting Combine gives teams a short window to get to know prospects.

It’s one of the most important aspects of the NFL Scouting Combine, yet for each prospect it lasts just 15 minutes.

Yes, only 15 minutes to give an NFL team that might be drafting you in a few months insight into the person you are.

And those 15 minutes, they can be intense.

“You almost treat it like a competition,” said Cameron Heyward. “They are testing your knowledge to see if you are a sincere person and how much you care about this game. They can tell from the get go if you are serious about this and you want to excel at the next level. They don’t know you, and they want to know why you love this game, what you want to do when you get in the league.

“With the Steelers we got to write essays to see what we are all about. It’s really cool. It’s more than just the interview. It’s a great process. It’s an essay about myself, what I thought were important character traits, things that make me the person I am. To be able to do it that way you get to know the person better.

“I felt like I was in ‘Men in Black’ being interrogated by some of the other teams. From seeing all of it the Steelers are a one of a kind team.”

The interviews aren’t always the only access the team will have to the draft prospects leading up the NFL Draft. Teams can bring 30 players to their facility for a visit, as well as meet with players at their pro days. But the Combine is what kicks it all off.

“You only get 15 minutes during the formal interview so you are trying to get a snapshot of his personality,” Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert has said. “At the Combine you really are just trying to get a feel for their personality, their parents, siblings, what their background has been, what their educational background is and where they stand in school. Sometimes we get into football, but most of the time we save that for the visit when we bring them back here.”

Teams are permitted to interview 60 players at the Combine, and they all approach it differently. The Steelers way was one that got thumbs up all around.

“It just depends on the team whether they are super intense or laid back. It just depends on each room,” said Landry Jones. “When I met with the Steelers it was great. They just wanted to get to know me, get to know my personality. Coach (Mike) Tomlin made it more like a conversation, asking questions about myself. It wasn’t too intimidating. It wasn’t bad, it was pretty good.”

NFL coaches and general managers talked about the interview process during the opening day of this year’s Combine, with all of them putting value on those 15 minutes. Here is their take:

Browns Coach Hue Jackson:

“I think the guys who are passionate about playing football and wanting to be one of the best in this league, it shows. Obviously there’s still work to be done that way, but that’s the starting point, you start to really get a feel for how important football is to a player.”

Bills GM Brandon Beane:

“I modeled it a lot after what we did with Carolina. We watch a lot of film in there. We sit the player down and the reason we do it that way is they don't know what plays are coming. They don't know what clips are coming. They don't know what question the position coach is going to ask. A lot of the talking is the position coach and the coordinator and then Sean (McDermott) and I will jump in if we don’t feel it was answered correctly. For 12 of the 15 minutes, we're watching film, probably. Then we'll ask them a few (other) questions but we can get the other stuff, your family and your career at another time. We just want to make this intimately about ball.”

Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin:

“The 15-minute interviews are hard, they are hurried. We structure ours to get the maximum bang for our time. We try to get bits and pieces out of him. Hear how the guy communicates. What are some of his thoughts on football? Can he repeat what he did on tape? Can he understand the concepts they were running? We do a tape component in our interviews just to see how much tape he knows and can recall. That’s what we are paying him to do that’s what we are hiring him to do, so that’s a big component of what we do in the interview.”