Watching players run, jump, and lift may not sound terribly interesting to many sports fans.
But these aren’t just any fans.
“It’s been here for years and you don’t really know what’s going on,” said 11-year Colts season ticket member Corey Barton. “So, to be able to be involved with it is pretty neat – to actually see what really happens outside of what’s on TV.”
Up until a few years ago, watching it on TV was the only way fans could experience the NFL Combine.
“I’m always amazed and thankful for the interest of the NFL fans,” says Jeff Foster, organizer of the NFL Combine. “I’ve said that the NFL Network producers should receive awards for how great they make this look on TV.”
It looks great enough on TV that fans want to be there in person. And gradually, the NFL has cracked that door open – in part to gauge interest.
“It’s one of the things we discussed when we started allowing fans into the event is, ‘Is it truly a Mastercard-type experience where it won’t be as exciting after you’ve been here once?’ But as you can see, there’s people that come back every year,” says Foster. “Those are the core NFL fans that we’re really thankful for.”
On Friday afternoon, select season ticket members were invited to lunch at Lucas Oil Stadium where they heard from former NFL players about their Combine experience.
“These are three of the most important days of these guys’ lives,” said former quarterback Mark Brunell. “This is their audition for the NFL. There’s a lot going through their head, a lot of emotions. Mentally they’re being challenged, a lot of stress, but you can really root for these guys because this is their dream come true and they made it to the Combine.”
Foster explained how the event came to be known as the NFL Combine.
“A company I work for called National Football Scouting, we started our first combine 35 years ago,” he said. “At that time, there were a couple of different combines, they were called camps back then. We had what we called National Invitation Camp, which is still the legal name of the Combine today. But there were a couple other groups doing it. It was different teams, but we were all doing the same thing. In 1985, the NFL said, ‘Let’s combine the three camps.’”
It became the NFL Scouting Combine – or so the legend goes. But, how did the Combine end up in Indianapolis?
“In 1985, we combined and ran a joint camp,” says Foster. “At that point, all 28 teams were involved. We started in Arizona, then we went to New Orleans and in 1987, we found our way here to the great city of Indianapolis and we’ve been here for 31 years.”
Over the years, the fans have embraced the Combine and the opportunity of having the NFL in their city for a week every year. And the NFL has embraced them back. Foster sees the role fans play at the Combine continuing to grow.
“As we’ve continued to push the boundaries from a club perspective, we haven’t received a lot of pushback and I think we’ve been able to control the environment and protect the integrity of the football event.”
But there’s one thing he’s not looking to change.
“The location is perfect. Selfishly, I live here, so we don’t want to leave. Indianapolis and its partners have been so important. There’s a reason we’ve been here 31 years.”
It’s a great relationship.
The NFL Combine is grateful to have the city of Indianapolis to host it. And football fans in Indianapolis are grateful to have the NFL Combine to host.
To sign up to participate in Sunday’s events at the NFL Combine, go to: https://2017combine.fishsoftware.com/prereg/.
For information on becoming a Colts season ticket member, go to: http://www.colts.com/tickets/season-tickets/index.html .