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The NFL Combine: Endless possibilities

Sixty-one students and one CPASS faculty member descended upon Indianapolis, Indiana in early March to attend the Sport Management Worldwide Football Career Conference and NFL Scouting Combine. The weekend event gave students an in-depth view of the National Football League.

Students representing all CPASS majors enjoyed the scenic six-hour drive across four different states. Once in Indy, students attended a networking social sponsored by Sport Management Worldwide (SMWW). Students had the opportunity to meet people from across the country and make connections with industry professionals.

Lynn Lashbrook, president of SMWW, opened the networking social, encouraging students to meet new people throughout the evening. Equipped with a bowling alley, two pool tables, indoor cornhole and a 15-person karaoke room, the possibilities were endless. 

Senior SEP major Mykal Manswell described the event as necessary experience. “You never know who you will meet and the type of opportunities you will get. It was relaxed, but it’s an important event to get your name out to people in the same field as you and learn more about a specific organization,” Manswell said. Staff members from SMWW were on site to answer questions and offer career advice to young college students looking to break into the field.

The following day, more than 200 students from across the country attended the day long guest speaker panel. Lynn Lashbrook and his wife Liz Lashbrook opened the speaker series with a Q&A session along with NFL legend John Wooten. Wooten has supported diversity and inclusion in the NFL, playing a key part in establishing the Rooney Rule. As chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, Wooten has helped initiate processes to develop talented minority candidates for NFL positions.

Additional speakers included Baker Mayfield’s agents, Jack Mills and his son Tom, who covered the recruiting process and management of Baker Mayfield. Joel Corry, CBS sports writer and salary cap expert, explained the complexity of the salary cap in multiple sports and highlighted both similarities and differences between the leagues. Seattle Seahawks sideline reporter Jen Muller, NFL Network National Insider Ian Rapoport and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik joined the panel to discuss the changing landscape in sports media, with a focus on the importance of trust.

The group’s final comment left an impact with the students. “Get to know everybody, and I mean everybody. I’ve met people who started in the mailroom and have worked their way up to assistant general manager positions. Never eat alone; always talk and get to know someone; you never know where somebody might end up,” Dominik explained.

Jacksonville Jaguars Director of Football Operations Mike Strober, GM of Junior Scouting for the Montreal Alouettes Russ Lande, former NFL coach Steve Fairchild, and NFL Draft Bible Founder Ric Serritella covered scouting. According to the panel, at a certain point, players' attitude and personality start to outweigh skill.

During lunch, Greg Hylton, vice president of premium seating and ticket sales for the Indianapolis Colts, joined Jen Muller to explain how they got into sports industry. Jen was told “she talks to much” which fueled her fire. She launched Talk Sporty to Me in 2009, which teaches business professionals how to improve communication and leverage fandom in business.

“You have to conquer your fear. If you don’t like speaking, or get nervous in front of large crowds, this profession isn’t for you. You will have to present at staff meetings, you will have to step in front of your boss or fellow employees and explain yourself,” she said. According to Muller, the art of face-to-face communication is slowly dying with the convenience of cell phones and emails.

Pro Football Focus Analyst Josh Liskiewitz, ESPN Insider Aaron Schatz, and Pro Football Focus Senior Analyst Steve Palazzolo talked about the analytics of scouting. The panel explained that while analytics have become a huge part of game, some coaches still believe in looking at player skill.

NFLPA Certified Agents Kristen Kuliga, Kelli Masters, Joel Corry and Tony Agnone spoke about the inner workings of the agent world. The speakers told the 'harsh' truth about breaking into the agent business. “It’s long hours and a lot of unpaid years. People don’t realize the time and effort it takes to even become one, or get your first client in this business,” said Agnone.

Making time out of his hectic schedule, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter talked about failure and how it should be a motivator. Schefter emphasized that getting told ‘no’ is okay. “Make them regret telling you no. You can only go as far as you let yourself go; don’t get discouraged, just grind it out. The breaks will come your way,” Schefter added.

Minnesota Vikings scout Kelly Kleine and GM Rick Spielman spoke about building a team and the struggles of work overlapping into family life. Kelly concluded the event with a final reminder for students. “Be the hardest worker you can. Don’t be afraid to take the unpaid internship. Don’t worry about the travel, or the hours, or the location. Just do it. You have to work somewhere long and hard enough that people start to notice when you aren't there,” said Kleine.

On Saturday, CPASS students attended the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in the heart of Indianapolis. The students received an NFL broadcasting earpiece, allowing them to listen to the TV broadcast on NFL Network. S eeing two Heisman trophy winners compete against each other was the highlight of the event. “This is what it’s all about. This is why I love this sport. I’ve worked my whole life to become an NFL GM and seeing all of this only solidified my passion,” said Tanner Cain, senior sport management student. 

CPASS students who attended the NFL Combine Football Career Conference included:  Aaron Price, Abby Eberhard, Adrian Perez, Ahmed Ismail, Alexandria Radike,Alexia Ruiz, Alina White, Alyssa Johnston, Anthony Jacobs, Austin Parrish, Bailey Johnson, Ben Monroe, Brianna Smith,  Cale Simon, Carley Walton, Carly Moore, Chanel Donaldson, Charles Watson, Christian Richards, Courtney Beard, Craig Nicholas, Daniel Clements, DeAngelo Ellis, Derrick Allmond, Evan Banasick, George Stakias, Gina Cueno, Gregory Marton, Issac Iglesias, Jacob Levine, Jacoby Vault, James Ruggiero , Jared Cleghorn, Jennifer Hull, Joshua Best, Joshua Shortall, Justin Paige, Katerina Lake, Katilyn Clark, Kaylee Hughes, Ken Signoretti, Khaliah James, Kierra Thompson, Kirsten Wehmeier, Kody Knight, Kyle Lucas, Laura Karlson, Leo Carrol, Maddie Eckman, Matthew Torres, Megan Schipono, Mykal Manswell, Nicholas Vollman, Robbie Barton, Ryan Stamski, Sam Demuzio, Sean Burke, Tanner Cain, Terrance Horsford, Tyler Sanderson, Zachary Gifford.

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