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NFL combine interview tip: Don't tell Doug Whaley you love to party

By Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL scouting combine isn't only about dashing, lifting, jumping, throwing and shuttling.

Perhaps the most important facet of the process is the interview. Prospects can rise or fall on a team's draft board with a bad Q&A performance this week.

"We're trying to pick out anything we can about the guy's ability, his retention of schemes, his ability to apply that scheme to another scheme and just his football knowledge and football instincts," Buffalo Bills assistant GM Doug Whaley said.

"It's a good exposure for the coaches to find out about these guys and be with them and talk to them face-to-face and get a synopsis of how they are learning and talking football."

Whaley said there's no such thing as a perfect interview "because there's no right or wrong answers. It's such a subjective thing."

But a prospect can doom his future by leaving a bad interview impression.

"The surefire way to blow and interview," Whaley said, "would be to come in and not be a professional and not take this as, 'Hey, this is my job interview to set my family up and myself for the rest of my life,' and not take it seriously.

"Anybody that's ever interviewed anybody for a job, you can tell: unprepared, body language, not being able to communicate, not caring to communicate, not following instructions or not being to answer a question. Those are the things you pick up on."

I asked Whaley to tell me about one of those terrible interviews. He leaned back in his chair and laughed.

"Here's a story," Whaley said. "I was working with the Steelers, and there was a positional player at the University of Pittsburgh. So we interview the guy.

"One of the questions at the end of the interview was, 'What would be the most exciting thing if we picked you, and you played for the Pittsburgh Steelers?' And the guy said, 'I'd at least know where to go party after the game on Sundays.'

"Now, come on, man."

Did the player get dropped from the Steelers' draft board?

"He didn't fall off," Whaley said, shaking his head, "but he slid down a little bit."


2013 draft | 2013 NFL scouting combine | Doug Whaley
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |