The NFL Scouting Combine (per wiki) as we see it today first appeared as the National Invitational Camp in 1982 in Tampa, Florida. It was sponsored by National Football Scouting, Inc., as a way to allow member organizations to evaluate NFL draft prospects in one location.
Two other camps were held for non-member teams from 1982-1984 (run by BLESTO and Quadra Scouting), and then in 1985, the three camps merged into what is now called the NFL Scouting Combine and the NFL selected National Football Scouting, Inc. to coordinate the event.
Fun Fact: New Orleans hosted the final, pre-merger NIC in 1984, as well as the 1986 NFL Scouting Combine, which was the last one not held in Indianapolis, which has hosted the event since 1987.
Other Fun Fact: The move of the Combine to Indy occurred because someone double-booked the New Orleans site with an auto show. source
Prior to 1982, teams had to schedule their own individual visits with players to interview and evaluate them. The New York Jets were one of the first teams to bring in college seniors for interviews and physical exams in 1976.
"Besides character and intelligence, the other non-football thing we put a premium on is the medical aspect," Mike Hickey, the Jets' director of player personnel, wrote in a column for The New York Times in April 1983. "We attempt to have every player we are interested in have an orthopedic physical by our team physicians."
Hickey described how those efforts had led to seven years of draft success, noting that nearly half of the 36 players the team drafted since 1977 were starters.
"It takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money, but we think it is worth it," he wrote. "You have to cut down the odds of making a mistake."
Eventually, as more teams began doing the same thing, Tex Schramm proposed to the NFL Competition Committee that teams work together to centralize this process, which led to the establishment of the NFL Scouting Combine.
In the early days of the NIC/Combine, it wasn't the glossy, corporate, structured and managed event seen on television today, and this 2015 article by Conor Orr from nfl.com reveals some info about how it was once a very different scene.
Old man Coughlin recalls the good old days:
Tom Coughlin remembers a serene afternoon in the mid-'80s at the Superdome down in New Orleans.
Coaches would huddle over film banks and players were readily available, milling about the grounds of the old scouting combine without handlers or agents. They were not trained in 40-yard dashes or prepped on interview questions. You could learn something about a kid.
Coughlin talks about it now with a certain longing. It was peaceful then. Organized but loose. A sign that the NFL was growing, but a sign that it would maintain the underground feel that defined the league's first two decades after the merger.
"There's an awful lot that has changed," the New York Giants coach said Thursday.
This freedom and civility didn't last long and soon led to fierce competition and frenzied activity:
There were no rules, no time restrictions and no limits for teams that wanted to gain an edge.
"There were fist fights," said Gil Brandt, a longtime player personnel executive with the Dallas Cowboys.
Blame the Giants for all the madness.
That was one theory, because when George Young got a hold of a prospect, the youngster wouldn't leave the meeting room for hours. The Giants were one of the first teams to include a psychological evaluation in their process, which meant, according to some combine vets, a 200-question form on top of health questions.
I could go on and on with quote boxes about this, so let me just say that if you want to know more about all these shenanigans, which included bribery, fistfights, and poor little scouts and interns having chasing players down and trying to lure them to their team rooms, etc. CLICK HERE
Just 'Nother Fun Fact: If you think it sounded wild at the Combine in the 80s, KNOW THIS - the Saints bought into this whole scouting system in their inaugural season of existence (1967), when GM Vic Schwenk gave their 1968 2nd round draft pick to the LA Rams in order to join the scouting combine (this is the wording found in the Saints' 2015 meda guide). But according to Wayne Mack in The Saga of the Saints, "joining the combine" amounted to getting a stack of scouting reports and trading the pick for access was Pete Rozelle's idea:
"Schwenk needed information on the players to make good drafting decisions. Rozelle suggested that New Orleans give the Los Angeles Rams their No. 2 draft pick in the 1968 draft in exchange for the Rams scouting combine information on college talent. Schwenk accepted. For better or for worse, the deal was made."
Imagine that! Paying just one of the competing teams in your league a 2nd-round pick so you could join a scouting service that many teams use rather than just having to pay the subscription fee. I kind of wish those days of creative trading options could be reinstated to freshen things up around the league in the offseason. "Hey Hoodie!! I'll trade you a carton of Zapp's for your pre-game PowerPoint slides from your Super Bowl win over the Seahawks. Whaddaya say?"
SMFH Not-So-Fun Fact: In researching this section, I found a piece on stupid questions asked at the Combine, and was reminded that the Saints' Jeff Ireland is the boron who asked Dez Bryant about his mom being a prostitute a few years back.
Final Fun Fact: Mike Mayock has a lot of dumb phrases he uses at the Combine to talk about specific aspects of players' talents and physical attributes.
Trivia Question: What do the letters BLESTO stand for? And what was it called before it was called BLESTO? Please use the blackout function to cover your answer. The first correct answer gets a prize, and everyone who tries gets a participation medal.
Now that you know about the history and early days of the Combine and the Saints/New Orleans history in relation to it, I invite you to share your thoughts and feelings about this shindig in the comment section.
For more fun, let's offer up serious, fun or stupid questions you think should be asked of college players in an interview with the Saints. And also give us some dumb phrases that should be used to describe talents and physical attributes and rank players instead of Mayock's.