INDIANAPOLIS When the lights are turned on, the cameras are rolling and the players step out in their neon red three-piece suits on draft day, they will look calm and collected showing no glimpses of the endless interviews and twice-a-day training sessions that have filled their lives since the end of the bowl season.
The process for many began at the Senior Bowl, where they received their first introduction to what life would be like in the NFL. They also got a chance to work and meet with several head and position-specific coaches.
“I think the Senior Bowl definitely prepped us for (the combine),” Michigan senior Jeff Backus said. “Meeting all the coaches and doing all the different interviews and doing some different tests it definitely helps you learn how to deal with the pressure.”
By combine time, most players have found an agent or “player representative” to guide them through the coming months of preparation for the draft.
In an effort to increase the value of their product, many agents send their clients down to training camps to work on their speed, strength and general preparation for the higher level of play in the NFL.
“Every little thing you can do to add value to the player,” representative Vince Larmier said. “That has become the new trend on the agents” side as far as preparing them for all this. Just the fact that a player can move up one spot, or ten spots that”s money in their pocket.”
The combine for the NFL is comparable to a coming-out ball for debutantes. It is the first chance for many NFL head coaches and scouts to meet and speak with the players.
“It”s nerve-racking,” Former Utah cornerback Andre Dyson said. “It is like a normal job interview. Only unlike normal job interviews, this one is for millions of dollars.”
The agent must also help prepare the player for the interviews and questions they are to face during the combine. In the NFL, where players have come under scrutiny for being in trouble with the law, poorly answered questions and past transgressions can be as detrimental as a slow time in the 40-yard dash.
Once at the combine, players go through a rigorous schedule of interviews, drill work and meetings with doctors from every team each of whom performs a separate checkup. Most nights end with little sleep.
On day one, the players woke up early in the Crown Plaza hotel and headed to the hospital for x-rays and CAT scans. Then they went back to the hotel where they attended meetings, which often last until midnight.
“I got up at seven and ever since, I”ve been pulled on and pushed and yanked from every place possible,” Michigan running back Anthony Thomas said after his first day at the combine. “From head to toe, they don”t miss a spot. I”d rather go through two-a-days three or four times than go through that again.”
On the second day, players woke up for urinalysis and medical exams with each team”s doctors and trainers. Following the physical examinations, the players performed strength tests that measure how many bench press repetitions they can do at 225 pounds. Once they were done with these, the players went back to the hotel to continue interviewing with teams and taking psychological examinations.
“You”re up at 6:30 running around and talking to everybody,” Dyson said. “It is exhausting. They want to know everything about you and how you do everything because they are going to put money into you.”
The last day was the players” chance to show what they could do physically. After several days of little sleep and exhausting interviews, the athletes were brought to the RCA Dome in groups of 30 to 40 for flexibility drills, 40-yard dashes, vertical leaps and position specific drills.
Under some of the worst conditions possible, many players elect not to run on the slow track or work out at the combine, opting instead for their individual workout at home.
“They tell you to stay in shape for the event and try to do as much as possible at the combine, but under these condition it is difficult,” Dyson said. “You are in a workout group of about 30 guys and you spend most of your time standing around, waiting, watching your competition.”
Only after completing the combine and the personal workouts are the players given a chance to walk out on stage and take their bow.