INDIANAPOLIS — We've seen a wide array of players participate in the NFL Scouting Combine from John Ross to Orlando Brown Jr. It’s held yearly at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and is a year-to-year spectacle that millions gather around the T.V. to watch.
Ross' 2017 performance was notable as he broke Chris Johnson's long-standing record in the 40-yard dash clocking 4.22 seconds. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Brown had one of the worst combine performances that we have seen in quite some time. But that didn't stop him from going to be a successful pro.
We've seen other warrior-like performances in years past, but while watching the event, have you ever wondered how all of the testing numbers and graphics are accessible right in front of you? After having the same thought, I wanted to seek out the individual that was a large part behind the entire process. During the week of the combine, I had the opportunity to interview Mike Weinstein, an engineer for Zybek Sports. The company is entering its 10th season in partnership with the NFL combine.
In this interview, I learned a boatload of information about the process of recording 40-yard dash times, why laser times are so important, how much stock NFL teams actually put into them and much, much more.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Question: Tell me about the company and what it entails.
Weinstein: It's a company that's been manufacturing equipment for timing athletes for a long time. We've done all of the major events over the past 14 years — the NFL Scouting Combine, the Army National Combine (high school), and many others. What we've done over the past few years is rebranding the whole combine and what we call the "SAT" or Standard Athlete Test. We did this because, now, all of the athletes across the country are taking the same exact test in the exact same way.
Q: How did the company lay the groundwork and develop a partnership to become connected with the combine?
W: The group at the NFL Scouting Services wanted to incorporate a different timing system and they said, "Hey, we want you to come out and be a backup timing system," and we agreed. We went out and did that and then the following year they called us back and asked what we were doing again for the event. They asked us to come back again because it looked pretty good.
Ever since then, we've been providing the actual timing equipment that's provided to the services. Also, more recently, over the last four years, we've been relaying real-time signals to NFL Network, ABC and ESPN. The actual graphics that you see on NFL media coverage of the event are coming from my computer. The running clock that you see on the screen is actually the real-time coming from my system.
Q: I do want you to tell one story about John Ross. Talk about when he ran 4.22 and your reaction to that.
W: I sit at the 40-yard line every year and I never really see them when they finish. I didn't even know that it was as good as what it was until after it was done because everything is so normal. I will totally back those times. I'm independent. I don't have a horse in the race. That was a totally legitimate time. The one thing that is interesting is actually trying to overlay video to see exactly when an athlete truly does start. That's part of the problem right there. We're just trying to figure out exactly who's faster and who's not faster. We actually have three different systems running simultaneously.
Q: How has laser technology changed over the past few years and what innovation is planned in the future?
W: We haven't really changed anything over the past few years at the combine. It's been the exact same system that we've been delivering. We've rebranded everything with Standardized Athletic Testing. You get so many various numbers whether you're being timed electronically or with a stopwatch.
Q: When times pop up on viewers TV screen, do they manually go into a database? How does that entire process work?
W: There's a number of different ways, but we report all of these times to the scouting services for spreadsheets. The time that you see on the screen from the NFL media is a real-time system being fed from our system. We've tested over 30,000 athletes in 2019 and all of those go into a database.