One of the most important parts of the CFL’s scouting combine happens behind closed doors: the prospect interviews.
When prospects gather in Winnipeg this week for the 2018 National Scouting Combine presented by adidas, they’ll not only get the chance to showcase their athletic abilities, they’ll get the opportunity to sit down and feature their personalities.
Any team that may be interested in a prospect will invite them to an interview where a panel consisting of general managers and coaches will get to know more about the personality of each hopeful. Do well in your interview by showing your determination, discipline and your ability to work as a member of a team and your draft stock could improve.
The Calgary Stampeders conduct an interview with a prospect in 2016 (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
“You enjoy the one-on-one period, for us, it’s maybe the second-best part of the combine,” Toronto Argonauts assistant general manager Spencer Zimmerman said over the phone about a week before the national combine.
“I’d say the best part is having a chance to interview the players, sit down with them and get to know them and know how important football is in their lives and where it factors in from a priority stand point.”
The interview process not only allows a team to learn about each prospect on a personal level, it also allows the teams to see how they handle themselves under pressure. Questions about strengths, weaknesses, academic aspirations and more are asked. Nothing is off limits.
“For me personally one of the biggest questions was because a lot of teams felt like I was undersized and they always bring up your weaknesses so you have to be able to be comfortable with what you feel like is your weakness and not shy away from it because everyone has their weaknesses,” said Edmonton Eskimos defensive end Kwaku Boateng.
“You want to actually use your weakness and express that and tell them that and be ready to give them a reason or give them something that explains to them what your next plans are. If they say, ‘this is your weakness’ then you have to come back and say, ‘well that’s my weakness but I’m doing this to counteract that.’ You have to always have a game plan.”
Calgary Stampeders defensive back Tunde Adeleke had a similar experience as Boateng did in his interviews at the 2017 edition of the national combine.
“Depending on the team, the questioning went very differently,” said Adeleke, who the Stampeders picked in the third round in last year’s draft. “Some teams were just criticizing, trying to see what kind of person you are and other teams were just a really nice meeting. They would ask you family questions, questions you would never expect.
“All of the interviews went pretty well. You get the questions you’d expect like, ‘how can you become a better player? Why do you think we should draft you?’ and things like that.”
While some teams may ask more unconventional questions to see how prospects handle themselves in uncomfortable situations, Zimmerman and the Argonauts like to keep things a little more straight forward. Having the prospects feel comfortable enough to share personal details about their lives is how Toronto approaches the interview process.
Tunde Adeleke impressed the Stampeders enough at last year’s combine to get selected by the team in the draft (Matt Smith/CFL.ca)
“If a player can feel like the organization is authentic and honest in their intention then a player can hopefully communicate to you what matters to them in their life and how important football is,” said Zimmerman. “We really don’t try to throw too many curve balls. It’s more just getting to know that player and understanding their journey on how it got them to the national combine or the regional combine and how it got them to being a draft eligible prospect in general.”
Knowing a thing or two about the Canadian Football League should be one of the first things prospects do to prepare for the combine. Most hopefuls research the list of combine participants to ensure they’re prepared for the one-on-one drills but researching CFL teams and their front office staff is just as important.
Boateng experienced that first hand last year during his interview with the Edmonton Eskimos.
“I remember Ed Hervey asked me near the end of the interview who Coach Maas was.” Recalled Boateng. “It’s not really a curve ball if you did your research. But for sure, if you don’t know the personnel in that room when you just go in there blind, you may not know who he is and he could be the person interviewing you. If you don’t answer correctly, that could be a big no-no on your resume.”
The best way to get through the interview process, whether the prospect is going to one or all nine teams, is to be authentic.
“Just be honest,” said Boateng “The last thing you want to do is tell a lie and then that can cause a snowball effect and now you have to lie to all nine teams. Just being honest with yourself and not going in there too confident.”