Last week I got the chance to go back to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. It made me think of the first time I went in 2009 to support Jeremy Maclin. Jeremy stayed in Columbia to train with us at Mizzou in our Pro Player Development because he wanted to be around people he knew and trusted.
Most athletes nowadays go to performance centers that specialize in Combine training and preparation. These particular businesses have exploded over the past decade. Many of the top performance centers set up shop in Indy so their athletes could put the finishing touches on their preparation right before the biggest day of their athletic career.
There’s a surprisingly high level of security everywhere and ID must be validated and credentials worn to gain access to certain areas and events. Metal detectors are everywhere there’s an entrance in close proximity to the athletes. The people in attendance range from hopeful prospects, general managers, coaches, scouts, college coaches, media, agents, family members, fans, and more. There are also many vendors showcasing their products for exercise equipment, apparel, technology, nutrition, etc.
As I reflected on the many trips I’ve made to the NFL Combine, I’ve been impressed with the growth since the first time I went. The amount of cameras and media present is astounding. This year was the first time events were held later in the day so they could be broadcasted during primetime hours.
It’s hard to put into words the total experience of the athletes. They’re stretched and challenged in every way imaginable over a few days in a hotel, convention center, and NFL stadium. This one week is the culmination of everything they have been preparing for and they will be on full display, physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and socially. Some jokingly describe the combine as a “meat market” which isn’t far from reality.
The Combine is also a huge networking and social event as well. While in Indianapolis, I like to catch up with former colleagues and go eat at my favorite places like St. Elmo’s and Harry and Izzy’s. Both restaurants are next door to each other and they both serve the best Cocktail Shrimp you have ever had in your life – don’t ask me how, they just do!
I’ve heard rumors of the Combine moving out to LA in 2022. The NFL is constantly making efforts to expand its empire so it makes sense to make the move, but I’ll admit, I’d miss the short drive (which got even shorter since I moved to Louisville).
Up next are the Pro Days when colleges and universities host an on-campus opportunity for draft eligible prospects to perform for NFL scouts. They allow the prospects who attended the Combine a second chance to confirm performance; or for some, a chance to perform drills they were not ready to do at the Combine. Or, like in my case when I was preparing for an NFL career without an Combine invite, a chance to perform in front of the scouts for the first time. (If you know any scouts who want my performance numbers, just refer them to my agent!)