Shaking ESPN senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter’s hand shook me; meeting NFL Live analyst Mina Kimes was surreal; and witnessing a live Ian Rapoport report drop on Twitter right in front of my eyes felt straight out of a movie.
Though Indianapolis, Indiana, isn’t exactly known for celebrity sightings, I encountered more in three days than I ever had growing up in Los Angeles. Sports media personalities, future NFL Pro Bowlers and executives alike flocked to the city for one event: the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
Enter The Daily Californian.
Fresh off of two hours of sleep and seven hours in the air with Spirit Airlines, I landed Thursday morning in Indianapolis International Airport sore, tired and hungry. With a full day of interviews and workouts to cover, there was little time to rest. And yet, put in such an environment of nonstop action, the Combine answered all of my woes.
Media availability began at 8 a.m. every day of the weeklong event. Located in the heart of downtown, the venue was the 13-acre Indianapolis Convention Center. Shortly after picking up my media credentials, I dragged myself over to the Sagamore Ballroom.
There, hundreds of tables filled a designated “media workroom.” A space open to enter freely throughout the day, it was a chance to get some peace and quiet amid chaos. Not to mention, the room had a designated spot for food and drinks — and a lot of it, too.
Placed on the outer edge were several tables lined with coffee urns, tea and sodas, as well as a buffet of food. In the morning, breakfast consisted of bagels, cereal and pastries. Around noon, lunch took the form of sandwiches, wraps, chips and salads. Sprinkled between meals were also snacks such as “fiery shrimp cocktails” and “peanut butter frittle.”
Refreshed with caffeine and a full stomach, I walked downstairs and took a couple of turns until I reached “Hall K” — a press conference room full of podiums for players to rotate through from morning until midafternoon. Beside Hall K was another room hosting bench press workouts. It was around this general area where many well-known figures in the NFL and media congregated.
On my way to interview the 2022 NFL prospects, who varied depending on the day, I walked past the likes of Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles, Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores and The Gazette sports columnist Woody Paige. As a fan, I wanted to stop to talk with each person whom I passed; but at the same time, we were all on the move given the task before us to scout the future of the NFL.
In the press conference room, red and blue Combine-themed podiums stood freely on one side. On the other, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and CBS Sports took center stage, filming live TV segments with the podiums as a backdrop.
While players sat in their respective spots, the media fired away with its questions. Essentially a free-for-all, any media member was allowed to ask any question to any player — as long as they found room to talk within the allocated 15 minutes. Some reporters asked multiple; others couldn’t get a single one off. It was initially a learning process for me, but I quickly caught on. Analyzing the cadences of the players, I yelled out my questions right when they finished uttering their last sentence.
After interviews, which usually wrapped up around noon, there was a break. Four hours later, the Combine workouts commenced at the home of the Indianapolis Colts: Lucas Oil Stadium.
On the northwest side of the 70,000 capacity building is the special media entrance. Upon security check, I was free to move around to whichever section I desired. Chock-full of advertisements, car dioramas and themed signage, the venue is breathtaking. Anywhere you waltzed around, there was a picturesque photo-op, from a giant Colts player figurine to replicas of each Combine drill.
While admittedly overwhelming, the stadium is distinct in its own right, as it fits a kind of eclectic — yet visually appealing — theme of a NASCAR stock car.
As I made my way to a seat a couple of rows back from the 40-yard dash drill, I picked up on the minute details you wouldn’t otherwise notice while watching from home.
Though TV broadcasts tend to focus on one event at a time, multiple athletes participated in drills simultaneously — much like a track meet. The audience comprised mostly fans, scouts and league executives, all of whom were accordingly separated into sections. Hanging by four thick cords fastened to the stadium’s balconies, high-definition cameras filmed the players with incredible precision in eerie, robotlike movements.
It was in these moments of reflection that I truly soaked it all in.
On one hand, being a part of the media grants you a behind-the-scenes look, far away from the camera. You get a reality check of what goes into a nationally recognized production, such as the NFL Scouting Combine. On the other hand, however, you’re granted experiences like none other. An example was meeting people such as Schefter and Kimes, which hadn’t fully registered to me until hours after.
Thus, in many ways, my trip to Indianapolis was as much “all-business” as it was a source of entertainment — a week of unique memories that, on the surface, felt straight out of a movie.