Chris Golic: NFL Combine invite should be a reward

NFL Evolution will feature a guest columnist every Tuesday, each with a different viewpoint of player health and safety from the youth level to pro football.

By Chris Golic, NFL Evolution columnist

Last week, all the talk was about the NFL Scouting Combine and the performance of the 300-plus athletes in attendance.

An invitation to the Combine is college football's version of a golden ticket. In 2012, of the 253 players selected by teams on NFL Draft day, 216 of them were guys who had attended the Combine. The opportunity to demonstrate their physical talents in front of every head coach and general manager, along with an invaluable interviewing process, can definitely elevate their chances of making a roster.

Every college player knows the value of a Combine spot, and that's why I would love to see the league use the Combine as more than just a tool to evaluate talent. I want to see the NFL use it to send the message to guys that what you do leading up to the Combine matters.

I propose that the NFL only allow players who have been able to stay in good standing while in college to attend the combine. Guidelines would need to be set, but a retooling of the entry process for the most important job interview in football is long overdue.

For starters, if you can't stay academically eligible in school or have a major run in with the law, you should lose the luxury of a Combine invite. I am not saying these players cannot or should not be drafted, but rather that the Combine should be a reward to those talented players who did things the right way on and off the field.

I believe the selection process as a whole needs work. I have seen a high character guy who was a four-year starter passed over for the Combine while a guy who quit on his team midway through the season and lost his starting job receive an invite.

This does not seem consistent with the values and standards of the NFL. While college is certainly a time when young people learn and grow by making mistakes, it does not excuse the poor judgment demonstrated by some who neglect academics or break the law.

As young men, these players must realize that they alone are responsible for their actions, and too often very few things can make an impression on them regarding their choices. I believe that if you start impacting their opportunities to play in the NFL, it might get their attention.

This could help with some of the recent player-conduct problems the league has faced. Even if it doesn't, there is something to be said for sending the message that doing things the right way does matter. Change will never come unless we start demanding it.

This past weekend, my husband Mike and I spoke with 600 youth and high school football coaches and administrators from around the country about the positive changes that are happening within the sport. Now the time has come for all of us to expect better and do better, as parents and coaches working together for our young athletes. The Heads Up Football program is establishing standards for the way things should be done on the field in terms of tackling and football fundamentals.

There would be no better feeling than to be able to point to best of the best in sports at events like the Combine and be able to say that the expectations and standards are changing from top to bottom. We'd all best get on board.

Christine Golic is the NFL's Consultant on Youth Football and a member of the Heads Up Football Advisory Committee. Golic is the wife of Mike Golic, a nine year NFL veteran and co-host of ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," and mother of two sons who played college football at Notre Dame and a daughter who is a swimmer at Notre Dame.

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