Every year at the combine, players end up reporting back on the weird (and sometimes inappropriate) questions that come up during the player interviews. For two straight years the Seattle Seahawks have entered into staring competitions.
Last year it was Michael Dickson. This year, the Seahawks apparently have their eyes on players from the University of Kentucky. They had staff at Kentucky’s Pro Day on Friday and cornerback Lonnie Johnson was the first one to report out on his staring competition and that he was the winner.
In an interview with Hey Kentucky, a local TV show in Lexington, linebacker Josh Allen engaged in a staring contest at the combine with the Seahawks. He admits to losing.
This brings to mind several questions. There are enough players coming out who were asked to compete in a staring contest that this doesn’t appear to be simply a fun way to kill time toward the end of an interview. What is the purpose behind it? With Allen, does it say something about the potential top five pick that he would admit to losing? Why is the team even meeting with one of the top edge rushers in the draft?
The last question might be one of the easier ones to answer. Former Seahawks quarterback Jake Heaps was on Brock and Salk, 710 AM Seattle, discussing the team’s meeting with Kyler Murray and the reasoning behind scouting some of the top players.
”They love to meet with those kind of guys and also, they love to get the reps,” said Heaps. ”They love opportunities to say, ‘Hey, we might not draft this guy, but I want to get my own personal take on him. Do I like him? Do I think he can be great, or do I think he’s going to be a flop in this league.’ And then they get to kind of see if they were right or wrong.”
Heaps says it’s about preparation, so when they have a have a chance to draft a guy at the top of the draft then they’ve been through the process.
TCU defensive end LJ Collier also revealed this week that the Seahawks put him up to test of how long he could keep his eyes open and also asked him “to do the ABC’s and count with it too.”
TCU LJ Collier on the strangest question he was asked at the combine:— Ric Serritella (@RicSerritella) March 23, 2019
"The Seahawks asked me how long could I keep my eyes open. That was kind of strange. They asked me to do the ABC's and count with it too. So, that was kind of weird."
It could be one of those interview questions to see how you might approach something that you’ve never been asked to do before. Or it could tie in with the reasoning behind the staring competition.
Jim Nagy, executive director of the Senior Bowl, would have been in position to know the team’s reasoning behind the challenge as a former scout for the Seahawks. He responded to a tweet about the staring competition with Johnson with two words, “Grit test.”
Grit test.— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 3, 2019
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has talked about how he looks for players with grit and has drafted several players who have overcome major challenges in life. Shaquem Griffin became the first one-handed player in the NFL. Tyler Lockett played through and came back from multiple injuries in college. Amara Darboh’s parents were killed in the Sierra Leone Civil War when he was just two years old and he moved to Iowa with his siblings when he was seven.
Carroll spoke about building a “culture of grit” with Angela Duckworth, a psychologist who is renowned for studying the concept. She describes grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.”
Judging the grit in players like Griffin, Lockett and Darboh might be easier when you look back at their history. If Nagy is saying that performance in a staring competition is another way to somehow measure it, then at least it offers an possible understanding for why it’s coming up consistently.
A lingering question is why Allen would admit to losing his staredown.
Maybe the conclusion is that Allen is not the next Mike Singletary.