The first time I ever heard the term “getting up on the table” in the draft room was one of my first years at the Senior Bowl. It was at a practice, and someone was congratulating Seahawks scout Derrick Jensen for a pick the team had made in the later rounds.
It was a defensive lineman, as I recall, though the exact player I can’t remember. “Yeah, I really had to get up on the table for him,” Jensen said.
Since then, I’ve heard the term dozens of times, but rarely have I heard exact stories of a scout aggressively lobbying for a player.
I dug this one up from former Bears GM Phil Emery. He told it at the 2015 ITL Seminar, the annual event we hold at the combine for our clients, after meeting former Dolphins wide receiver Chris Chambers at our event. Chris was there representing his combine prep facility, The Chamber, which is based in South Florida. If you’d rather listen to Phil tell it himself, click here. It starts at the 3:00 mark and runs until 4:37.
“It was 2001, OK? I was the positional cross-check guy for wide-outs for the Chicago Bears. It was my first go-round with the Bears during that time, and I’ll tell you a little story.
“(Chambers) will always be in my memory bank because I was pushing for (him) hard, right? I love those big hands, and that catch radius, and all that end zone work. (He) had a catch where (he) went up over the top in a corner of an end zone and grabbed a one-hander, and it was so beautiful. It was such a moment of grace and athleticism, and just beautiful to see. The reason I’m in (football), OK, is because I see this as art. This brings joy to my heart to watch somebody do something that no other human being can do. It’s special. It’s special, and that catch was special.
“So we’re having a little debate about (Chambers), OK? And so as the positional cross-check scout, I had wide-outs, so I stack all the wide-outs in the country from one down, OK? Well we were responsible at that time — this was way before digital, OK? This is VHS and 16 MM tape. We were responsible for making the profile (tape) and cut. So what I did is, I stuck it on that catch, and repeated (his) catch 10 consecutive times so that everybody got the feel about how I felt about (him), so Mark Hatley, our Vice President of Player Personnel at that time said, ‘hey, Phil, that’s enough.”
I think it’s an even more interesting story when you realize Phil was right about Chambers. The Bears took Michigan’s David Terrell that year with the eighth pick in the draft, and Terrell was an unmitigated bust. In addition to Terrell, wide receivers taken in the first round that year included Koren Robinson (the ninth pick, to Seattle), Rod Gardner (15, Redskins), Santana Moss (16, Jets), Freddie Mitchell (25, Eagles) and Reggie Wayne (30, Colts).
Taking it one step further, receivers taken in the second round before Chambers were Quincy Morgan (33, Browns), Chad Johnson (36, Bengals) and Robert Ferguson (41, Packers). I think you could argue persuasively that only two receivers in this group, Wayne and Johnson, had better careers than Chambers. I guess Phil was right.