Friday, August 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The combine experience

Last year, I had the opportunity to follow the path of an NFL draft prospect, from the end of his senior season all the way to draft day, through a series of articles I wrote with friend and recruiting guru Matt Bracken. The player we followed was Joey Haynos, a tight end from the University of Maryland. Haynos went undrafted in the 2008 draft, but was signed to the Packers' practice squad. Late in the season, he got a call from Miami, and was added to the Dolphins' roster. In Week 15, everything came full circle, as Haynos scored a touchdown against the 49ers. So why am I telling you all this? The NFL combine begins today in Indianapolis. Last year, I kept Haynos on the phone for about an hour, asking him every detail of his experience in Indy. I thought I'd share some of the things he told me here: ** Prospects train extensively for the combine. For Haynos, that meant a camp in Florida with renowned strength and speed coach Tom Shaw. Agents generally pay for their clients to attend these camps, which focus on the different tests like the 225-pound bench press and the 40-yard dash. Shaw's camp also emphasized becoming a better player on the field, not just excelling in the tests. ** A lot of people focus on 40-times and the on-field workouts, but an important part of the combine is the interview process. On his first night in Indy last year, Haynos said he was in a huge meeting room, that was basically like a job fair. After three hours, he had met with 20 teams -- coaches, scouts, personnel guys. All asking him about his background, asking him to diagram plays. One even asked for Haynos to tell him a joke. ** The days are extremely long. Haynos, like many others, had to catch a flight very early at 4 a.m. the first day. The interview process didn't end until about 11:30 that night. The next day, he had to get up at 4:45 a.m. for a drug test and weigh-ins. "It was quite an experience," Haynos told me. "We were like cattle. It was like a meat market." ** The amount of medical testing that goes on is unbelievable. Haynos said he went through eight different physicals. If there are any problems, the players are sent to the hospital for an MRI. "At one point, I had a doctor on my left ankle, right knee and both of my shoulders," Haynos told me. "I was literally being pulled in every direction." ** There is always some talk about the famous Wonderlic test. The prospects have 12 minutes to answer 50 questions. Most players take some version of the Wonderlic before the combine. Haynos said he had taken it twice. The questions start easy and then get more difficult, dealing with algebra, synonyms and antonyms, almost like the SATs. I asked him for an example of an easy question: What number month is December? A. 8 B. 9 C. 10 D. 11 E. 12 ** While on NFL Network, we see all the on-field activities, Haynos had been in Indy for 48 hours before he had engaged in any football activities. Those are some of my notes from speaking with Haynos last year. "It really is one big interview," Haynos told me. "These teams are investing a ton of money in players and want to be as thorough as possible." Click here to read more about Haynos' combine experience. Editor's note: I will be out of town on vacation from Thursday morning to Monday morning. Be sure to check our philly.com's Eagles section for the latest news from the combine. I'll be back next week to gear up for the start of free agency.

The combine experience

Last year, I had the opportunity to follow the path of an NFL draft prospect, from the end of his senior season all the way to draft day, through a series of articles I wrote with friend and recruiting guru Matt Bracken.

The player we followed was Joey Haynos, a tight end from the University of Maryland.

Haynos went undrafted in the 2008 draft, but was signed to the Packers' practice squad. Late in the season, he got a call from Miami, and was added to the Dolphins' roster. In Week 15, everything came full circle, as Haynos scored a touchdown against the 49ers.

So why am I telling you all this?

The NFL combine begins today in Indianapolis. Last year, I kept Haynos on the phone for about an hour, asking him every detail of his experience in Indy. I thought I'd share some of the things he told me here:

** Prospects train extensively for the combine. For Haynos, that meant a camp in Florida with renowned strength and speed coach Tom Shaw. Agents generally pay for their clients to attend these camps, which focus on the different tests like the 225-pound bench press and the 40-yard dash. Shaw's camp also emphasized becoming a better player on the field, not just excelling in the tests.

** A lot of people focus on 40-times and the on-field workouts, but an important part of the combine is the interview process. On his first night in Indy last year, Haynos said he was in a huge meeting room, that was basically like a job fair. After three hours, he had met with 20 teams -- coaches, scouts, personnel guys. All asking him about his background, asking him to diagram plays. One even asked for Haynos to tell him a joke.

** The days are extremely long. Haynos, like many others, had to catch a flight very early at 4 a.m. the first day. The interview process didn't end until about 11:30 that night. The next day, he had to get up at 4:45 a.m. for a drug test and weigh-ins. "It was quite an experience," Haynos told me. "We were like cattle. It was like a meat market."

** The amount of medical testing that goes on is unbelievable. Haynos said he went through eight different physicals. If there are any problems, the players are sent to the hospital for an MRI. "At one point, I had a doctor on my left ankle, right knee and both of my shoulders," Haynos told me. "I was literally being pulled in every direction."

** There is always some talk about the famous Wonderlic test. The prospects have 12 minutes to answer 50 questions. Most players take some version of the Wonderlic before the combine. Haynos said he had taken it twice. The questions start easy and then get more difficult, dealing with algebra, synonyms and antonyms, almost like the SATs. I asked him for an example of an easy question:

What number month is December?

A. 8
B. 9
C. 10
D. 11
E. 12

** While on NFL Network, we see all the on-field activities, Haynos had been in Indy for 48 hours before he had engaged in any football activities.

Those are some of my notes from speaking with Haynos last year.

"It really is one big interview," Haynos told me. "These teams are investing a ton of money in players and want to be as thorough as possible."

Click here to read more about Haynos' combine experience.

Editor's note: I will be out of town on vacation from Thursday morning to Monday morning. Be sure to check our philly.com's Eagles section for the latest news from the combine. I'll be back next week to gear up for the start of free agency.

Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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