INDIANAPOLIS – This is the environment that Dennis Hickey is most comfortable in, evaluating draft prospects up close at the NFL Scouting Combine. Despite wearing a new hat as Miami Dolphins General Manager, he felt right at home again in Indianapolis.
For Hickey, his first month on the job with the Dolphins has gone by quickly and other than last Thursday, when he stood at a podium in front of a crowd of reporters inside the media center, he treated this Combine like business as usual. It was all about doing things he was familiar with but making sure it’s in concert with Head Coach Joe Philbin as they build the 2014 roster.
“It’s exciting to see the best college players in the nation being gathered together in a neutral and controlled setting where everyone’s competing at the same level,” Hickey told Dolphins.com. “It’s also exciting to see these guys and getting to interact with them through the interview process and getting detailed information.”
As far as how different if at all this year’s Combine was for him compared to in years past, Hickey didn’t notice too many significant changes. The process hasn’t changed at all in terms of the schedule of medical exams, interviews, psychological exams and physical workouts.
“It really has been pretty similar,” said Hickey, who spent his first 18 years in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.. “Obviously, it’s the same thing as we’re trying to get to know these guys better and interact with them. Obviously, there are more duties involved with the general manager’s position but the process has been pretty much the same. I’ve just been overseeing it and I have great people I’m working with.”
Every team approaches the Combine differently when it comes to how much weight is put on these workouts compared to what the scouts, coaches and general managers see on actual game film or what they witnessed in person. Hickey likes to balance both aspects of the evaluation process before making any decisions.
“The Combine, it’s a supplemental. The number one thing is the tape and what they do on the football field,” he said. “But it’s exciting to see these guys step up and get verified information and if it doesn’t quite match what we thought going into it, that’s when we go back to the tape and measure that against what we actually saw on tape.”
Back when he attended his first Combine in 1996, there wasn’t nearly the amount of media attending it as there is now, and fans weren’t allowed inside Lucas Oil Stadium to watch. That part changed a few years ago and of course NFL Network airs around-the-clock coverage and there was an estimated 900 credentials given out to the media this time around.
In addition to breaking down the college prospects, Hickey also has been busy getting familiar with Miami’s current roster so that he can identify which are the most pressing needs to fill. His initial impression of what the Dolphins already have in house is a good one.
“I like these guys and obviously there’s a lot of decisions coming up with free agency,” Hickey said. “But I like what I see and I really enjoyed interacting with a lot of the players as they’ve come up to the office and just sat down. We just visited about their goals, their plans and I shared with them my vision as well as Coach Philbin’s vision and it’s exciting to look them in the eye and see the passion to bring a championship to Miami.”
Having been an integral part of building a Super Bowl winner in Tampa Bay at the beginning of his career, Hickey knows what it takes.