The NFL scouting combine has turned into a personality event for the public as much as it's a test of players' speed and agility for scouts.
A once-small media group has turned into a horde that fills the space in a Lucas Oil Field Stadium club lounge, and as many as five interviews could be taking place at the same time.
The words of Johnny Manziel, Michael Sam and Jadeveon Clowney will be dissected as if their 15 minutes was the most important 15 minutes of the decade. Last year it was Manti Te’o, the year before Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
It’s the silly beginning of the silly season, where the value for the media comes in learning the personal sides of players.
It’s an amazing event really -- some call it a “non-event” -- but it’s also one that matters to certain players.
Consider Browns tight end Jordan Cameron. Coming out of USC, he had started for one year and had 16 catches and a touchdown. He would have gone unnoticed had it not been for his work in the East-West Shrine Game. But it was at the combine where Cameron really opened eyes. He finished in the top three of all drills, and was fifth among tight ends in the bench press. That led the Browns to take him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He progressed steadily as a player, and this season went to the Pro Bowl.
“Luckily they put so much stock into [the combine],” Cameron said in an interview last November. “It means absolutely nothing. It doesn’t tell you how good a football player someone is.”
What does it tell?
“It shows you can run and jump high,” Cameron said. “Luckily I did both of those things.”
Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith was not invited to the combine, nor was Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins. He told the team’s website that the combine measures what a player can’t do. But if a scouting staff is smart and does its work, it can find a player like Cameron.
“There’s certain things that I would imagine some scouts take from the combine,” Cameron said. “But at the end of the day that’s not football. They put a lot a lot of stock in it. It was huge for me.
“I treated that very seriously because I needed something to open peoples’ eyes.”