The process of pulling useable information out of draft prospects fascinates me. As the entire draft process has become more refined and former scouts and general managers are being hired to prepare draft prospects for their interviews at the combine, it’s tougher to get unvarnished truth out of the interview process. I asked retired NFL scout Oscar Lofton, who was with the 49ers for the better part of two decades evaluating talent. Here’s another interesting segment from Oscar on our YouTube channel, and here’s the entire interview. Enjoy.
“I treated (players I interviewed) like I was one of the coaches, you know? (Like) I was going to coach them myself, and I would always try to get on their good side. I’d try to say, ‘hey, when you played Notre Dame, man, you had the quarterback, you know, he’s peeking over here, like “here he comes again!”’ You know, try to give the guy some confidence so he’ll open up a little to you, and (I would) talk well about his playing time and where (I thought he would be) going . . . in the draft. You know, ‘hey, there’s a lot of buzz about you, I need to find out about this,’ (and) you know, ‘when you come to our place (if we draft you), what are you going to bring?’
“You know, something positive to get him to come out a little bit. ‘What are you going to bring to the 49ers? When you come and you line up in the first exhibition game, or the first practice against our All-Pro left tackle, or whoever, you’re covering the best receiver, we got Jerry Rice, what do you bring to the table, what are you going to do?’ Generally they take that as a little bit of a challenge, and they’re going to speak and say, ‘well, you know, maybe he’s a great receiver, but I’m going to make him work through his routes, and then I’m going to try to strip him of the ball,’ and I’m not going to try to embarrass him.
“If he’s a receiver, you say, you know, ‘we’re going to put (former 49ers cornerback) Nate Clements on you. What are you going to do to him?’ ‘Well, you know, shake his jockstrap or whatever. You know, something cocky. Maybe you start out, if the kid’s a receiver . . . say, ‘look I used to coach receivers,’ you know, and usually I would be wearing a silky shirt. . . because, you know how silky receivers are, and smooth. So you get them at ease and generally they’ll open up if they think you’ve got their best interests at heart.
“Guys that are confrontational like that, that’s their personality, my personality is to get on the good side of them, to try to bring out everything from them in a positive way, and that’s just my nature. But . . . you can’t be somebody you’re not. You go jump in some guy’s stuff . . . and he clams up on you, then you don’t go anywhere. You have to have a technique that you feel comfortable with, and . . . if that doesn’t work, you maybe try something else.
“You get some kids that you just can’t pull a word out of, you know? Everything’s ‘yes sir, no sir,’ and they’ve been trained to do that too, you know? It used to be ‘no’ and ‘yeah,’ or else, ‘I don’t know how to answer that’ or something . . . but they’re pretty well-trained now, and I think kids are more comfortable in the interviews and stuff now, again, because they’re prepared. A lot of times when they hadn’t been exposed to the end of that, it’s kind of like the first time you get on an airplane, you know you’re trying to help them fly it, you know every time it moves you’re trying to balance it and all that. Then after you fly awhile, you learn how to sleep on a plane.”