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Getting to know you: Interviewing at the NFL Combine

By Kim Dunlap | @kimjdunlap

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — The horn sounds, and the player is shuttled to his next destination. That’s how interviews work at the National Football League Scouting Combine. Every team is allotted 60 formal interviews during the week, each one lasting 15 minutes. These interviews are important for several reasons. One of the most important is that these interviews give teams valuable insight into a player’s character and football knowledge.

“I ask them to stand up and give a two-minute offense, things that are totally relevant,” said Bruce Arians, coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Arians said he takes that approach with all positions, but it is especially important with quarterbacks.

Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn said interviews are crucially important for teams, even if they only last a short time. In an interview, Quinn said, you can decide if a player is worth talking to again at a later date.

Ben McAdoo, head coach of the New York Giants, admitted that agents have done a good job of preparing their clients for answering tricky questions.

“Ninety plus percent do a good job,” he said. “It’s hard to find cracks.”

Arians agreed with McAdoo. He also enlightened reporters on some of his own interview secrets.

“I’ll ask them stuff not in the book,” Arians said, “shake them up a bit, see how they react. I can’t say what I ask because I would probably get fined.”

The line drew a chuckle from the pool of reporters.

Even though McAdoo knows the players have been pretty well prepared for the face-to-face interview, he did say there is value in how you see a player handle criticism and praise.

And as valuable as the interview process can be for a team, it can be equally as rewarding for a player.

Paul Perkins, a running back from UCLA, said it’s important that his personality shows through when he’s meeting with teams.

“Definitely just make an impression with each coach you meet,” he said.

As Arians said, you can evaluate a lot of things, but you can’t evaluate brains and heart. And every player that sits down in front of a team, face-to-face, needs to have both.

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