NFL combine is big business for Indianapolis

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The NFL Combine is underway at Lucas Oil Stadium.  That's where the country's top college athletes are invited to essentially audition for the big league.

This year's combine also provides a timely audition for the city to show that Indianapolis has what it takes to host another Super Bowl.

In three months NFL owners will award the 2018 game with Minnesota, New Orleans and Indianapolis the three finalists.

John Dedman with the Indiana Sports Corp. said, "any opportunity to showcase the city is great for us."

The combine is expected to bring 4,000 people to Indianapolis through Tuesday, Feb. 25, including NFL owners, general managers and coaches along with 900 members of the media.

"With that comes a lot of bylines and city shots out of Indianapolis," Dedman said.

Thursday found the east concourse of Lucas Oil Stadium lined with broadcast, print and online reporters interviewing NFL coaches and several of the 350 NFL prospects.

During a live broadcast, one radio host described the Combine as "the ultimate job interview" for the college players.

JC Copeland, who played for Louisiana State University agreed, "It's a pretty big deal.  To make the leap, you've got to run fast and jump high."

Copeland was referring to the physical (and mental) tests the players go through.  For the city, it's pretty much offering up a refresher course.

Dedman said, "It gives us an opportunity to work with the NFL, to welcome their decision-makers to town and showcase everything we're doing.  And, the fact the Combine has been her since 1987 is not lost on many of those administrators as well as media members."

 Mike Silver, formerly with Sports Illustrated, and now with the NFL Network, said hosting the Combine has helped the city.

"We all have a positive association with Indianapolis because of the combine," he said, adding it's the same when it comes to the 2012 Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl here was an A+," he said.  "I think we all came away from Indianapolis thinking yeah, we're coming back here."

Interestingly, the city has never had a long-term contract with the NFL to host the Combine.  It's always year-to-year.

Jeff Foster, president of the NFL Scouting Combine said what draws them back "is the same thing that drew us initially, the central location, the nice indoor facility, the make-up of the downtown area."

He said another reason they've stayed is the partnerships with the people in the city, including IU Health, the Crown Plaza, Visit Indy and Lucas Oil Stadium.

"The experience they bring and the pride the execution of the event are the most important things," Foster said.

He said owners from 20 NFL teams are expected to attend the Combine.  Asked how that as it relates to the 2018 Super Bowl, Foster said of Indianapolis, "they're putting on a good face, but they do for all events and it's not just for the NFL.  They're famous for hosting great sporting events."

That's something members of Indy's Super Bowl Bid Committee hope is top-of-mind when the owners award the big game in mid-May.