With the NFL well into it’s late winter—early spring hibernation, GM Howie Roseman and his team ignite their engines for the first leg of their season. This week, The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine will kick off what looks to be a busy year for the young executive.

For the young men entering the football workplace, however, a sense of deja vu permeates through their eager minds. In many ways, the NFL Scouting Combine is unique and one-of-a-kind: nowhere else can the free agency and draft dinner tables be set to precisely, with chatter and banter fluttering in the air as collegiate athletes try to turn heads. On the contrary, the NFL combine mirrors the process taken in college application, with each individual trying to differentiate between others around him.

Each NFL franchise is allowed 60 formal interviews, and speaks only with selected “applicants,” as a college would. “We try to be a little bit strategic about who we bring in to those formal interviews,” Howie Roseman told WIP’s Anthony Gargano and Rob Ellis Thursday.

These meetings are a combination of Common Application Essay and college interview. Applicants must be on point, as one wobbly response could change the perception of a team. “Those 60 formal interviews, they’re fifteen minutes, and we do takes notes on everyone of them. We come back from this meeting, talk about the guys there, and talk about some of their characteristics. We put them on the board, see what kind of quick thinkers they are. If they have some things in their past, we kind of get into it and see how they react to our questions” Roseman explained.
Like college admissions boards, NFL front offices look to piece together a general puzzle of the applicant in front of them. Each piece must fit in order for a a team to view the player as a fit: “We want the whole picture to match. We start evaluating these guys in May. Throughout the summer we’re watching the junior tape. Then we go in the fall to see them on campus, we watch them in the fall, we see them at an all-star game, a big bowl game hopefully. Then, you get them [at the combine] and hope everything matches in terms of personality, measurables on the field. If you do that, you have the complete picture of the guy” Roseman acknowledged.

For every pure interviewing plea, there are a handful of red flags that enter the interviewing room. Every admissions officer, and team officer, for that matter, has memory of a person that matched each qualitative piece: SAT, GPA, class rank. For football teams, these would be: 40-yard time, vertical, positional drills, college stats. Unfortunately, said person fell out of the sky due to a lousy showing in the conference room: “We interviewed a player, last year, and I went down to the school and saw him, and I spoke to the coaches, had really good relationships there. They told us he had issues with going out, and nightlife, and not practicing hard. We started to ask him what he liked to do in his free time, and he said, ‘I don’t even like the game. I would rather stay in my room and play video games,” Rowseman humorously admitted. As a former senior college admissions officer stated, “The college interview cannot help in any way. Just show up, don’t say anything stupid, and it won’t hurt you.”

Clearly, college applicants and NFL draftees have similar portions on their plates. In competitive environments such as these, what happens beyond the numbers is what allows the cream to rise to the top. For the Eagles’ sake, chef Roseman must start the meal off with a hearty appetizer. Bon apetit.

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