The annual Pre-Draft NFL Combine has been held in Indianapolis since 1987 but the timing & testing of eligible collegiate players began years before then.
Some of us “senior alumni” may recall as collegians being scouted and interviewed in person by legendary NFL personnel directors such as Pro Football Hall of Famer Gil Brandt, Bucko Kilroy or Tank Younger.
The current Indianapolis version of the Combine has grown into a week-long televised event with live coverage by NFL Network, ESPN and dozens of local stations. The number of print and digital reporters has grown exponentially, especially in this age of social media, and more than 1,500 are expected in Indianapolis starting next week.
While the popularity of this first off-season NFL event is undeniable, the Combine is not without its critics. For example, NFL executive Troy Vincent reportedly characterized the Combine as a “slave auction” during a league meeting last December. More recently, NFLPLA executive director DeMaurice Smith told media at the Super Bowl in Arizona that he is in favor of abolishing the Combine and instead staging regional pro days, potentially being organized by the union itself.
“It’s gotta start with players and their agents understanding that the Combine today has nothing to do with how fast you run, how high you jump, or how much you can lift,” Smith said at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference. “We’ve been tracking all these players since they were in what? Grade school? We’re now in an era where we know exactly how fast these guys can run, how much they lift, how far they can jump, do all those things. Why do we insist on them showing up in Indianapolis? It’s not for anything physical, right?”
Despite the criticism, it is expected that more than 300 collegiate participants will report to Indianapolis starting February 28 through March 6. It will be the first time that NFL coaches, owners and general managers will have the opportunity to see the collegians up close, conduct speed interviews in person, and verify the reams of information that road scouts and other player personnel managers have been filing for the last several months.
Cameras…Action…Let the NFL offseason begin!