With the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine underway, it should be no surprise that we are seeing a series of articles about players recounting their own past Combine experiences. Many of them are generic and not very compelling, but the Pittsburgh Steelers’ website posted one yesterday with Cameron Heyward, who I felt shared some interesting thoughts.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that he had to say was the fact that he felt the Steelers’ process of getting to know players, based on his own experience meeting with many different teams during that week, was something that set them apart from other organizations.
“With the Steelers we got to write essays to see what we are all about. It’s really cool. It’s more than just the interview. It’s a great process”, he said. “It’s an essay about myself, what I thought were important character traits, things that make me the person I am. To be able to do it that way you get to know the person better”.
It might be fair to argue that there are some potential drawbacks to the Steelers’ essay test, the chief among them being simply that some are less able to clearly express themselves than others, or to write well. By the same token, anybody with a competent agent will have been informed that Pittsburgh does this in advance.
Still, Heyward recalled the entire process of the Combine as a foreign feeling, and it was made more complicated for him because he was recovering from an injury at the time, so he was forced to put all of his efforts into the mental side of the event.
“I can say I felt like I was in ‘Men in Black’ being interrogated. You felt like an alien”, he said. “Getting to know the teams, how they work, it’s a unique process. I can say from seeing all of it the Steelers are a one of a kind team”.
But more generally, he said that “you almost treat it like a competition. They are testing your knowledge to see if you are a sincere person and how much you care about this game. They can tell from the get go if you are serious about this and you want to excel at the next level. They don’t know you, why you love this game, what you want to do when you get in the league”.
The two-time Pro Bowler also noted that he does think about the fact that he didn’t get a chance to compete athletically directly with his peers from that draft, which was one of the great drafts in recent years for 3-4 defensive ends.
That year also included J.J. Watt, Cameron Jordan, and Muhammed Wilkerson, among others, all of whom have gone to the Pro Bowl. “You want to measure yourself up with other guys. I never got a chance to do that”, he said. “All of the guys in my draft class have been doing well, but I never got a chance to measure against them at the combine”.