Observations From Hearing Scouts Interview Prospects at the Senior Bowl
Alex Dunlap, Rosterwatch.com
If you have ever attended an NFL Scouting Event as a member of the media, you know that Scouts and NFL Execs ask prospects some of the strangest questions in interviews. Their job is to get the most information they can on behalf of their teams prior to their organization making an investment in the player, and rightfully so. If you are going to be paying a 22-year-old millions of dollars, you want to extract as much intel as you can on the individual. The questions they ask are not of the media/tee-it-up-for-a-great-answer variety.
The first real question you will hear in many of these interviews is whether the prospect came from a single-parent or a two-parent home. If they come from a one-parent home, they will ask which parent they lived with and follow with seemingly random details about their estranged parental figure’s character and details pertaining to the reasons for the separation. If for some reason, one of their parents is (or has been) incarcerated, this opens up a whole new flood gate of questions. These are tough things for a kid to answer without feeling kinda freaked out. They ask things like whether there mother is a good cook, and what their favorite meal is that she makes. One scout asked one prospect if they had any family friends who they are not related to, but who they call their “uncle”. (whatever that means) I heard one prospect from a two-parent home asked which parent he felt he had the “better relationship with”. They always ask whether they are a dog-person or a cat-person. I heard one prospect asked when the last time he visited the dentist was. Kellen Moore was asked by one scout who he would rather meet: Christopher Columbus or William Shakespeare. You simply can’t make this stuff up.
These are not questions to put the player at ease with small talk. They are gathering information about the type of home environment the prospect grew up in. These lines of questioning are awkward, but lend insight into how the players have been taught to take care of themselves and others with whom they are in relationships. It also lets them know whether the prospect is likely to have developed healthy eating and lifestyle habits among other developmental markers socially and cognitively.
Another common tactic is to bait the prospect. I heard one scout ask a player this week if he was still smoking marijuana “all the time.” This borders on offensive, which is exactly what they are going for. I heard one player (from a major Division 1 conference and team) told by a scout that no real playmakers ever come from (their school). These are not the worst I have heard of, though. I was so taken aback by some of the lines of questions I was hearing that I sought feedback from some various scouts and Senior media professionals.
One well-known beat writer told me prospects had reported to him about having been asked if they were gay.
Jeff Ireland of the Miami Dolphins made headlines two years ago when he asked Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.
These questions are needling, and are thought to be used to judge how the player will be able to handle the media’s competitive beat coverage that is always looking to steer players towards providing them a headline with a hasty retort. It also shows a level of maturity in being able to answer tough and seemingly pointless questions in an even-keel and respectful manner. If I was applying for a multi-million dollar job, I would answer whatever they asked. Something tells me these players agents have advised them to do just that.