When I learned I was credentialed for the 2019 NFL Combine, I didn’t quite realize how much had changed since I last covered the event three years ago. The media sessions are at the Indiana Convention Center — not Lucas Oil Stadium — and it seems to keep growing in scale.
Brandon Gowton asked me to write about all the things “behind the scenes” that you might be interested in reading.
So, here’s my impression of the first day we heard from prospects:
1 - Indianapolis is cold in February
As someone from Columbus, Ohio, the weather wasn’t entirely surprising, but it was in the low-30’s most of Wednesday and into Thursday which means Uber travel rather than walking. When I covered the Combine 3 years ago, we walked everywhere and I honestly can’t imagine why we did that.
I can understand why the NFL might be considering moving the annual event to cities like Dallas or Los Angeles — as they’ve been interested in hosting when the contract with Indy is over — but there’s something special about the city of Indianapolis this time of year. Many of the restaurants and hotels that are frequent hotspots for NFL execs and media members alike are all within about a mile of Lucas Oil Stadium, and the people watching everywhere is just spectacular.
2 - The media workroom
After picking up credentials at the Indiana Convention Center — which is absolutely huge and beautiful — you enter the Sagamore Ballroom, which is four gigantic rooms put together and find a seat. In what I consider the universe looking out for me, I pick a seat that just so happens to be a row behind the rest of the SB Nation crew. And that fast, I am no longer a lone sheep (or wolf, or some other animal that does significantly better in a group).
The workroom is also at least a quarter mile away from the player interview player area, and I am certainly not in-shape enough to be making the trek back and forth to file my stories. The workroom does, however, have food and drinks which was greatly needed after the long walk. I also may or may not (definitely did) steal a water bottle from the NFL Network’s media cart in the interview room. I was thirsty and I deemed it a necessity to not pass out.
3 - Player interviews
I’m not here to complain because the experience is very cool, but it’s also extremely stressful. They’ve got 4 tables for “lesser known” prospects set up and 8 podiums for high-mocked draft picks. That means roughly 12 guys speak at the same time, and getting to each of the ones that we considered interesting is nearly impossible. Not to mention, if you spend too much time with any one prospect, you miss the opportunity to ask something of someone else.
Again, not complaining, but I will say that my love of color-coded spreadsheets and OCD toward planning definitely comes in handy for these kinds of events. I have a handful of prospects that, along with Brandon Gowton, we’ve prioritized and it makes trying to hit all of them at least somewhat manageable.
4 - Bench press area is loud
The area for the bench press is right next to the interview area, and while photograph and video is prohibited from the event, cheering is encouraged. Which means things get pretty loud, rather quickly, and it makes it tough for the prospects being interviewed to hear all the questions.
As the players bench on stage, they are very strict about form and are sure to remind them to fully extend, and are also sure to omit reps that don’t count.
5 - Meeting friends
The cool thing about working in the sports blog-o-sphere is that you work with and interact with people who live all over the country. The Combine puts all these people in one place, and it’s fun to finally meet people you talk to on Twitter all the time.
Also, I finally met BGN’s Deputy Editor Benjamin Solak, and he’s just as happy and nice in person as you’d expect him to be.
I can’t wait for the next three days and all the fun, crazy, stressful things to come.