Every year I talk to people looking to break into the NFL as an agent, scout, financial advisor or even player, and very often, their plan is to start with the combine (yes, several years I’ve seen ex-college stars trying to give their resumes to scouts and writers in Indianapolis).
Look, I get it. Nowhere else can you find every scout, every coach, and every top NFL prospect in one city at the same time. Not at the Senior Bowl, and certainly not at the NFL draft. In addition, Indianapolis is pretty easy to navigate. Unlike my home city of Houston, you don’t need a car once you get downtown. Pretty much everything is within walking distance, and if you know the walkways, you never even have to go outside.
If you’re an aspiring member of the football business who’s headed to Indy in two weeks, here are a few do’s and don’ts.
- If you’re a financial advisor headed to Indy, hoping to hit up as many top players as you can talk to, curb your enthusiasm. Players are in town for four days, not a day more, and while they’re in town, almost every minute is scheduled. In fact, players are assigned to groups with a scout who takes them around; it’s almost like they have a chaperone. In addition, all players stay at the Crown Plaza Downtown Union Station, and it might as well be Fort Knox. Twenty years ago, the lobby at the Crown was the nerve center, the place where writers, agents, and even scouts hung out. These days, take as much as a step inside the lobby without the proper credentials and security tackles you.
- I spoke to a young man today who will be taking the agent exam this summer, and he’s headed to Indy to meet as many scouts as he can. I have a lot of respect for someone who’s spending his own money with no agenda but to try to make ‘cold’ introductions to scouts. This is also a tough proposition. Most scouts don’t want to know an agent unless he’s got a player that interests them. Until then, these agents are just someone else clogging their inbox or handing out business cards. I’m going to try to help this young man, but I’ve tried to keep his expectations reasonable.
- It helps to have a sense of ‘place’ when you’re at the combine. For NFL scouts and personnel, obviously, it’s everything going on at Lucas Oil Stadium, and for the media, it’s the interview room at the Convention Center, with players and executives streaming through regularly. For agents, there’s the NFLPA seminar all day on Thursday. Even selected fans will have something to do this year with Indianapolis turned into a Super Bowl-style hive of NFL entertainment and activity. But if you’re someone looking to make connections, it’s a little tougher. That’s one reason we at ITL have held a seminar for seven years. We’ve hosted a number of ex-NFL GMs and scouts, as well as key members of the NFL draft media. This year, for our eighth event, we’ll have former NFL scout Matt Manocherian, who’s now with Sports Info Solutions. He’ll give an insider’s look at how analytics are being used by NFL teams. String that together with a happy hour sponsored by one of our partners and a few other lunches open to people in the agent business, and it gives you something to do. But you kind of have to know where to go and what to do.
- If you don’t fit into any of these categories, I always recommend The Omni as a place to people-watch and maybe meet a few key people. Lunch is good at The Ram, which has big, enclosed booths that can hold 6-8 people; it’s almost like having your own mini-meeting room. After dinner hours, you can find scouts and executives at St. Elmo’s, Shula’s, and High Velocity, the tony bar at the J.W. Marriott.