The issue of character is one that’s often cited in NFL Draft circles, though no one can exactly put his finger on how, exactly, it impacts a prospect’s draft status.
Most often, when a player slides several rounds when none of the pundits expected it, a commentator will shrug his shoulders and mention “character concerns.” Other times, we hear of “off-the-field concerns” about players, but often don’t have a real smoking gun on why that is.
But here’s what we do know: teams care about more than just what they see on the field. Teams conduct interviews at all-star games, at the combine, and sometimes even after pro day workouts because they want to get to know a player before they decide on drafting him. Knowing how to interview and what to say is an important part of the pre-draft process. That’s why I’m excited about Blake Beddingfield and Jerry Angelo, the two men who will conduct interview prep for ITL clients for the 2019 NFL Draft class. Jerry will handle clients in the Southeast (primarily Florida) and Blake will cover the mid-South.
We’ve been offering interview prep for about five years now, mainly because we know it’s important and we want to provide an affordable service. In the past, we’ve had Jeff Ireland (now with the Saints), Ray Farmer (Rams), Phil Emery (Falcons) and other former scouts work with players. Why is it important? Because “many kids have been dumped after interviews,” Beddingfield said. “Couldn’t grasp their own offense or defense. Lied during interview. Didn’t (admit) felonies, etc. One kid . . . came in the room wanting T-shirt’s for some (people) outside.”
There are other services that provide interview prep, but we approach it in a different way. The goals are twofold: we teach players how to present themselves in the best way, i.e., sell their own best qualities, and never lie or be dishonest.
“Here’s the biggest thing, and here’s what I’ve evolved to with these interviews: I customize it,” Angelo said. “If I’m doing a one-on-one session, I customize it to the player. First, I go back to his high school years and delve into his family background. If he’s got a solid family background, I bring that out and make that something he’s gotta get out to the teams. Some teams gloss over families, and some get into it. (If it’s a positive,) that’s gotta get out thee. It’s very important to his stability, a foundational stability that all teams can relate to.
“Then I take his football career, starting his junior/senior year in high school, and look at what he accomplished. Was he a captain? Did he play dual sports. I call this his bio. I make him write these things down as we go through it. Im interviewing him in the first 15 minutes ascertaining his facts. Then I go through his career, playing time, durability, accolades he might have achieved, anything I think is important that I know will resonate with teams. That’s where my expertise and experience come in, because I know what teams will glean in interviews. We need to be specific about who we are. What makes (the player) different and drawing that out from the player.
“Then I say, here’s our package. It’s five to six bullet points we need to get out in this interview. They may ask the questions, they control the questions, but (the player) controls the answers. You have to get those answers out.”
Jerry also explains the three things that teams are really looking for in any interview; how to present any “baggage” as a strength; how teams will specifically try to bait a player through interview questions, and how to avoid taking the bait; and how teams use interviews to break ties among players.
Incidentally, if you have a client who doesn’t get an invitation to the combine, don’t rule out interview prep.
“With the 30 visits that teams get, how many kids get drafted that didn’t go to combine? He’s gonna be one of those 30 visits,” Angelo said. “No team is drafting a player without giving him a physical first. When he goes on that 30 visit, he’s going to be interviewed. You want him to do it right and know what to do there.”
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