Linebacker Shilique Calhoun
Ironically, the questions he wasn’t asked were the ones that Shilique Calhoun remembered the most.
Just over a year ago, the current Oakland Raiders linebacker had just put the punctuation marks on his career at Michigan State, and was heading off to Indianapolis to participate in the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine, and the gauntlet of drills he’d be put through both on and off the field.
The interview portion of the four-day event has become synonymous with off the wall questions prospects are asked (If you were a dog, what kind of dog would you be? How many things can you do with a brick?), but Calhoun said that the teams didn’t try to trip him up, and kept their questions to X’s and O’s for the most part.
“People were pretty straightforward with me,” recounted Calhoun. “I didn’t get any weird questions; I actually was kind of prepping myself, and looking forward to seeing what they would ask me, but I didn’t get asked any weird questions. It was specifically about football, and how I feel about my productivity.”
Largely regarded as one of the most rigorous jobs interview in sports, the college prospects who are invited to take place in the rundown at Lucas Oil Stadium have late nights, and early mornings, *really *early mornings.
“What I remember about the combine is just those grueling, early mornings,” Calhoun said. “That was the biggest thing, is having to be up early, just making sure that you had to go do all the tests, as well as the interviews. The late night interviews where they get you in the room, and they kind of break down your film, both good and bad, it’s worse going through bad film, because they’re really in depth in it. They want to understand what you were thinking, what you did wrong, and why you did what you did you wrong.”
While Calhoun didn’t shy away from talking about the grueling nature of the four days in Indy, he made sure to note that while it was no doubt a business trip, he and his fellow NFL hopefuls also had some fun in the process.
“I also remember having good times,” Calhoun said. “Talking with the guys, being out there on the days where we did the 40-yard dash or when we did the bench [press] testing, and just the memory of kind of being as one, because even though we came from different teams we kind of still rooted each other on, in the hopes that each of us still succeeded.”
Overall, Calhoun had found memories of his time in Indianapolis at the combine, calling it a “positive experience” where the inner competitor in him got to shine.
“I think being there with those guys, whether they were first round, second round, third round, it was great to see them compete on their own individual level, and it kind of gave me a sense of where I fell in the fold, and I believe I’m at the top of it all, but I do believe that it was good for me,” Calhoun explained. “I was able to get out and be a one-man show for a couple of days, and see where I stacked up against certain amounts of talent.”
Two months later, Calhoun was picked by the Raiders in the third round (No. 75 overall) of the 2016 Draft, and he appeared in 10 games as a rookie before eventually being placed on the Reserve/Injured list.
Now, with a season of NFL experience under his belt, Calhoun can look back on his time at the combine and offer some words of wisdom for the hundreds of NFL hopefuls getting ready for their turn at Lucas Oil Stadium.
So what would the former Michigan State Spartan say to those players? First, get some sleep, and second, don’t go into the experience with any preconceived notions.
“Honestly, [my advice] would be, going to every meeting with wide eyes, and a sense of understanding of what they’re trying to get at,” Calhoun said. “Gain something from going to those meetings. Don’t go in there just thinking, ‘oh, they’re going to ask me questions, and I’m going to spit out answers,’ gain something. Ask them questions about how they see your game, how they perceive you as a football player and as a person, and overall what you can get better at coming around for next season.”