Over 320 prospects will take part in the 2018 Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis.
Dan Feeney knows exactly what they are in for.
Before he was the Bolts’ third-round pick (71st overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft, Feeney was a top offensive line prospect out of Indiana looking to prove his worth.
Like every prospect, Feeney’s Combine experience was a blur.
One year after being put through the gauntlet, Feeney opened up about his own experience, sharing inside stories while giving advice to this years’ crop of prospects.
Perhaps most interesting is how the young guard explains preparing for the Combine barely resembles preparing for football.
That’s why his training style is completely different than it was a year ago.
“Oh it’s a lot different,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously for the Combine, you’re training to be the fastest athlete you can be. Right now, I’m just training to be a better football player. It’s a total mental switch.”
And there’s the rub.
While the drills prospects are put through at the Combine test a wide array of physical and athletic skills, they aren’t always applicable to what’s needed come gameday.
For example, when’s the last time you saw an offensive lineman need to run a dead sprint for 40 yards? What a player does in shorts and a tee-shirt is not nearly as important as the tape he put on film throughout his college career.
Still, that doesn’t mean a player’s raw athletic talents aren’t important, which is why the Combine can make or break a prospect.
“At the Combine, they’re watching how you’re trying to do a certain event and how athletic you are,” he said. “That’s very important. Like (most prospects), I trained a lot for it. I went to EXOS down in Florida, and they have a whole regimen routine (designed to help) prepare for the Combine. They take care of everything. They had a guy come in to prepare for the interview and ask us questions they said a lot of teams ask. So, I kind of had a rough draft of that.”
As Feeney alludes, perhaps the most important part of the Combine is when the prospect meets with teams to test his football acumen. Players meet with various clubs in a variety of settings in what is a mentally exhausting experience for each prospect.
Feeney met with approximately 10 teams during his Combine experience, including the Chargers, and pointed out how every one of them had a different way of conducting their interviews.
Some were truly bizarre.
“I like to think I was prepared, but each team probes you a little bit differently,” he said. “One team did just a card trick to see how you compartmentalize things. Another team asked how long I could hold my breath, and some things like that. A lot find ways to make it competitive, and others asked how do you think or interpret things.”
So, what’s Feeney’s advice for those going through the process this year?
“Each team is going to be different, so just be you,” he said. “Don’t try to be what you think they want you to be. They want to see who you are, not who a cut-and-paste person is. So be who you are, be yourself, but obviously be competitive. A lot of teams love to see that. So just try to figure things out right away, and show them who you are. I think that’s one thing that helped me out, because I’m naturally competitive.”
Feeney’s advice doesn’t end there, so this year’s prospects would be wise to pay close attention to what he has to say.
“It’s going to be a tough process,” he continued. “Obviously as a lineman, I just want to lift heavy stuff and get as strong as I can because that’s my type of football. So the Combine will definitely be a mental switch. You have to try to be the best and fastest athlete you can be. But then you also have to stay mentally strong because it’s a long process. It’s a long week. You’re going to have (countless) interviews and a bunch of people asking you questions and probing you about something. I mean, it makes sense. Obviously, they are putting a big investment into you. So you just have to stay strong and keep your head up.”