During the week of the 2012 NFL combine you will hear several players talk about how they will meet with different teams during their time in Indianapolis as every team is allowed to meet for 15 minutes with up to 60 players that are attending the combine. 15 minutes does not sound like a very long time, but as Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, it is plenty of time.
During the Thursday interview, Colbert was asked how important of a week it was for him and the rest of the Steelers scouts and coaching staff. Colbert replied, “It\’s huge. You know that\’s the part that I look forward to the most. We\’ve seen guys in a helmet. We\’ve seen guys on video. We\’ve seen guys in practice. We haven\’t had the chance to interact with them and tonight with the personal interviews, we get to see the person that\’s underneath the helmet and that\’s huge for us. It really is.
The Steelers GM was then asked just how much can they actually get in these 15 minute interviews. Colbert answered, “You know what, you can get a lot. I mean players, I know they\’re schooled, I know they\’re taught how to interview, but they can\’t hide their true personality. No matter how hard they try.” He continued, “You know some guys you need more than 15 minutes, and we know probably who those guys are and we\’ll bring them back in. Some guys its 5 minutes and I\’m talking about positive or negative. You know this guy is just bursting and bubbly, and you say, Ok, we\’re wasting our time. Then you get the guy that\’s not so bubbly, not sot so transparent and boy you just say, Coach Tomlin and I will just look at each other and say, no way, and you move on. So you know, you learn.
Colbert was asked to expand on that answer and if he could tell in 15 minutes whether or not a player will fit. Colbert replied, “Yeah, it\’s rare. I mean it\’s rare that we eliminate, because we understand that kids are kids and there\’s mistakes. You got to keep looking underneath the covers somewhere and make sure you got the truth. But when a kid comes into your room and is belligerent, disrespectful, and it happens. It\’s unfortunately that some kids just aren\’t ready for this. You\’ll see it quickly and you know, we\’ll make some pretty quick decisions, and we kind of knew going in, we were worried about it, but then the player will come in and verify it. You got to be careful, because they\’re are some guys that maybe have some character transgressions throughout their careers. You get a prejudged notion on them, but then you bring them in and you say, wait a minute, Ok now we understand the family dynamic. This kid had nothing; he didn\’t have a chance coming up. So maybe you can help him. So you got to sift through what\’s real and what\’s not, but there are going to be the occasional, wow this guy is a slam dunk or this guy has got to go.”
To close out that particular line of questioning, Colbert was asked how important is it for the Steelers to go back and visit with the colleges? Colbert explained, “We do they that all through the fall and we\’ll do it in different layers, which we try to get three people in, including myself, over the course of a fall so that you get a comprehensive view. Then you follow up with all of this stuff afterwards. So we\’ve done a lot of that, but we\’ll go back to the pro days, as many as we can, and get opinions after the season. Sometimes coaches\’ opinions during the season and after the season, they vary. Usually the colleges are very supportive of their players. They have been with them three or four years and they like to see their players succeed because it\’s not only good for the player, but it\’s good for their program. They usually will go out of their way to make sure that we know the good things about their guys.
You hear it all of the time about how the Steelers do their best to try and add high character guys via the draft and they have a good track record for the most part. These interviews at the combine are just a very small part of the process, but an important one nonetheless.