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ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen remembers when the NFL Scouting combine was just a few media members meeting with front office employees in hotel lobbies. The year was 1987.
"I actually bumped into a coach the other day. He said, ‘I remember when it was just you, Rich Gosselin from the Dallas Morning News, he was at Kansas City then, and a couple other guys.’ There was no event," Mortensen recalled to linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and Redskins.com's Andrew Walker.
"It was at the Hoosier Dome…the Indiana Dome," he said. "You really just met up with general managers, scouts and coaches, in kind of just the lobbies in one of the hotels. But this is obviously a different time."
Indeed. Part of the reasoning behind the explosion of interest in events like the combine and draft has been the union of college football with the NFL. Mortensen believes the calendar conflation makes both audiences tune in.
"How can the draft draw so many, 35-40 million viewers, over the course of a three-day event?" Mortensen said. "I’ve always felt like I tried to solve this with the great mind I have. You know what? It’s actually the day that college football, now the second most popular sport in America, is married-up to the professional football, and it’s kind of like it’s graduation day and you’re getting grades, and you have a lot to talk about it. So, you put two popular sports together, and this obviously what they consider a critical time."
Kerrigan then asked Mortensen for his thoughts on the NFL Draft moving from New York City to Chicago for the first time:
"I didn’t necessarily want to get it out of New York, although I’m not from there," he said. "But, Chicago is a great town. It’s obviously more in the Mid-West – nothing wrong with that...It just won’t be the same because one of the things that makes the actual Radio Music City Hall or before that it was the Madison Square Garden theatre – Jets fans being in the balcony waiting for their pick and going, ‘Oh no!’ But, it’s still going to be exciting because it’s a time of anticipation.
"Maybe you could say it’s over-hyped. I think in the way you look at the Seattle Seahawks and you say, well you saw where all the sudden they were hitting on the guys in the fifth, sixth and seventh round. The Patriots and the Seahawks I think had more undrafted guys on their rosters than anybody. So, we get excited the rounds like you [Kerrigan] were picked in, and those are the guys who are visible. But, the draft is a total body of work and the headliners are headliners, and we’re going to talk about it forever until somebody drops saying, ‘I can’t take it anymore.’"
Check out what Mortensen had to say about Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan here.