Note: Rick Reiprish shared some insight on how the Saints scout the Senior Bowl before being fired Tuesday.
MOBILE, Ala. — Josh Harper sat on a couch in the fourth-floor lobby at a downtown hotel and tried to answer the questions as quickly and thoroughly and politely as they arrived.
What does your sister do? Where did she go to school? Are your parents still together? What do they do? Do your parents come to your games?
Everything and anything about him was fair game. After the session concluded, he moved through the lobby and was grabbed by a scout. Eventually, Harper makes his way to another room where he takes a test to determine personality traits. One player, perhaps facetiously, said he was asked if he saw himself more as a cat or a dog.
It seems like an exhaustive process, but if Harper is lucky, he’ll sit down with all 32 teams this week at the Senior Bowl and answer the same questions over and over. Some players spend time preparing for these interview sessions, they same way they do for practices that will be evaluated by all 32 teams. Harper did not prepare.
“I’m just being myself, trying to answer everything honestly,” the Fresno State wide receiver said. “They’re going to find everything out anyways. You might as well tell them.”
For every team outside of the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, who will be playing in the Super Bowl, Mobile, Alabama, which hosts the Senior Bowl, has become the epicenter of the NFL this week. Each team is represented here by a team of scouts and coaches, each hoping to get familiar with this year’s class of draft hopefuls.
For the Saints, general manager Mickey Loomis, and several other members of the team brass are in town. One person who is not with them is Ryan Pace, the former director of player personnel who recently left to become the Chicago Bears’ general manager. Former director of college scouting Rick Reiprish now joins him in exile after being fired Tuesday afternoon.
His absence will not change how the team goes about doing business. As is the case every year, each member of the scouting staff is assigned a positional group and will be tasked with interviewing each player in that group. The scouts will then watch the players practice and write reports based on what they see.
“Each scout will have a position to look at and then we’ll talk about them,” Reiprish said. “In general, we kind of look at our positions and the people we’ve seen through the year and kind follow up on them and see how they’re doing.”
At this point in the process, the members of the scouting staff have still not gotten together to compare notes or come to a consensus on a player. At this early stage, it’s about weeding out players as much as it as it is about figuring out who to take a closer look at.
But more than anything, it’s about becoming more familiar with this year’s class of seniors.
“We’re trying to get an equal look at everybody who is playing,” Reiprish said. “You never know when a guy is going to have a good day or play better than we thought he did or practice better than we saw them.”
Once the scouting combine is complete and teams put players through individual work outs, the scouting staff will begin to place grades on players, further whittle out those who fail to make the cut, and rank them ahead of the draft.
For the prospects, it’s a stressful time. They know every movement they make, from how they move on the field to their body language while practicing, is going to result in a plus or minus in a scout’s notebook. And how those pluses and minuses add up could determine their futures. Hopes, dreams, and fortunes are on the line.
It’s a week-long job interview with stakes higher than most have experienced.
“I think you probably prep for everything, especially the interview process,” USC linebacker Hayes Pullard said. “You just want to make sure you’re ready as much as you can. Same as you do for these practices, work on these position drills.”
Pullard admitted he tenses up whenever someone wants to interview him. Everything he’s worked for is coming down to these moments.
If he messes up somewhere, he knows he could end up in a pile of weeds.