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Troupe Talk: NFL Combine

By Ben Troupe
SouthernPigskin.com
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Between the crazy questions during the interview process, to standing on a stage with nothing on but boxer briefs while someone gets your hand size and arm length, to every trainer on every team pulling at your fingers, the Combine felt more like an interrogation than a job interview.

I tell the cab driver, who would now most likely work for Uber, to make sure and hurry so I don't miss my flight. He asks me what's the rush and I tell him I’m headed to the NFL Combine and can not be late. I make it to airport on time in New Orleans, and had a connecting flight in Atlanta where every other tight end prospect would also be meeting up to travel on the same flight.

That flight was awful because the turbulence was almost too much to stomach, but I had to focus on trying to make the best impression possible. We finally arrive in Indianapolis and, as soon as I got to baggage claim, the craziness ensued with all these fans coming up to me asking for autographs. It seemed like hundreds and hundreds of pages with pictures and trading cards. I signed as many as I could before a rep from the Combine whisked me away and on to what is now known as Lucas Oil Field.

You get there, check in, and then get your room assignments. After you drop your stuff off, you head to a big room where some General Manager gives you the reality of the situation. For me it was Bill Polian of all people telling every young, impressionable mind, going off his every word, that most teams already had their draft boards put together and that if you thought by running fast or jumping high that you would go from a fifth round pick to a first round pick that it wasn't going to happen. Polian said this is a glorified meet and greet so that the players and coaches could talk face to face and get a better understanding of each other.

Imagine me finally getting to the pinnacle of my athletic career to then realize it was just a bunch of talking and fake smiles and laughs so that I could go along to get along.

The Combine is long and drawn out. It's a bunch of interviews mixed in with some athletic requirements that don't really tell the tale of whether or not a player can play at the NFL level. I only participated in the Wonderlic, height, weight, and obviously the 15 minute interview sessions. I got interviewed by Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams, Mike Tice, Jon Gruden, Tom Coughlin, and Butch Davis who was the then-head coach of the Browns. I got to meet every player who I only got to watch highlights of during the year, developed a brotherhood with those guys, and actually became a cheerleader for them hoping that their dreams came true just like mine.

Between the crazy questions during the interview process, to standing on a stage with nothing on but boxer briefs while someone gets your hand size and arm length, to every trainer on every team pulling at your fingers, asking you to wiggle your toes and questioning you about injuries, to answering the same questions over and over, the Combine felt more like an interrogation than a job interview. It felt less about my strengths and what I did well and more like trying to get me to admit all my weaknesses and justify teams hoping that they could get a first round talent in the later rounds because my game hadn't fully developed.

Don't get me wrong, my Combine experience was incredible but I still question even to this day what was it all for and what does it really mean. My best guess is that, just like any job you do,  it’s what is required to get the job or you don't get hired. Yet, I didn't do any of the athletic requirements and still got the job, so you tell me.

The Combine is a show of the best that college football has to offer all assembled in Indy to please these head coaches, GM’s, presidents, and owners. I got a passing grade while not even taking 75% of the test. God is good. The Combine on the other hand is just good for business.

Ben Troupe - Troupe played tight end for the Florida Gators from 2000-2003, and earned first-team All-SEC recognition and first-team All-American honors from ESPN, Rivals and Sports Illustrated as a senior. After a standout college career, Troupe was selected 40th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, the first pick of the Tennessee Titans that spring. Currently, Troupe is a representative for the NFL Ambassadors via the College Outreach Program and the USA Football Youth and High School Program while also serving as an assistant master trainer for Head's Up coaching initiative. Troupe can be heard on ESPN Coastal's "Three & Out" with B.J. Bennett and Kevin Thomas.