INDIANAPOLIS — It was nearing 3:00 a.m. at Prime 47, the Indianapolis steakhouse that turns into a late-night bar and the NFL scouting combine’s wildest watering hole. “Prime,” as it’s known, is the setting for the haziest of combine conversations. It’s always packed and sweaty and smelly, and the music is consistently bad, if you can even hear it over all the large men shouting. Prime is a time warp. The J.W. Marriott bar closes at 1:00 a.m. and someone says, “Prime,” and suddenly you’re in the backseat of an Uber headed there. And before you can remember the Washington Football Team’s new name, it’s 3:30 in the morning.
No one you meet at Prime for the first time will ever remember meeting you, so it’s smart to have business cards, a tangible piece of evidence that the meeting really did occur. Call me old-fashioned, but I love a good business card. I have a whole stack of them sitting on my desk, a helpful visual for when I’m feeling frustrated. Look at all these NFL people I know!
Business cards are so smooth. Handing someone your card is the perfect way to avoid the awkward Can I have your number? proposal. If I hand someone my business card and they don’t hand one back, or offer me their number, I get the message. Defector doesn’t yet have the name recognition of my previous employer, Sports Illustrated, so it’s nice to be able to flash our logo for some instant credibility.
Lots of NFL people are just as old-fashioned as I am and still carry nice embossed business cards printed on heavy paper. I’ve had plenty of weird business card interactions over the years of my NFL networking. There’s one scout that I have given my business card to at least THREE times in the last two years, and he has still never given me his card in return, or offered me his number. It’s become a running joke to me (I have no idea if he thinks it’s as funny as I do), and I feel that I am obligated to give him my card every time I run into him. Agents have offered to send me his number, but I refuse to take the easy way out. Unfortunately, I didn’t see him this week.
But that interaction is totally tame compared what happened at Prime this year. I found myself in a circle in the back corner of bar, talking to a position coach and a scout with two other reporters (only one of whom remembers it clearly) who witnessed what happened next.
I checked the time on my phone and realized how late it was. “I’ve got to get out of here,” I said, for probably the fourth time that night. But this time I really meant it, so I reached into my wallet and handed my card to my two new friends, the coach and the scout. The scout took it and put it into his pocket. Normal.
The coach took it, immediately folded it in half and put it in his mouth. He chewed on it, biting down several times before taking it out of his mouth and putting it somewhere. I was too stunned to notice where he put the soggy remnants of my business card. Because I am a true Football Girl and a Grinder, my first thought was not about how strange this interaction was. How could this coach text me if he ate my card?
I also knew I was running low on business cards and could not afford to waste one on a man whose first instinct was to put it in his mouth!
I took this as my cue to leave Prime, for real this time, but then the coach insisted on doing a complicated handshake with me before I could leave. He did not teach me the handshake, but expected me to perform it perfectly. Was this a test? Is this what he does in interviews with prospects? I tried four times and every time was worse than my previous attempt. I simply could not smooth out the snap after the clap and shake. After my last failed attempt, I walked away from the group and finally extricated myself from the clutches of Prime.
I actually totally forgot about this interaction until the next afternoon, when the visual of the coach eating my card flashed into my mind as I took my few remaining business cards out of my suitcase and reloaded them into my wallet. That was odd, I thought, but so are most things that happen in the NFL, so it was hardly crazy enough for me to register it as something to tell the world about. A coach nommed on my business card? Power move. Did that really happen? I wondered. I texted my main witness and she confirmed that it did.
The coach did not give me his card in return, but I spent the following two days using the anecdote as an icebreaker to ease into my business card slide. Can I trust you not to eat my business card? I only have a few left.
I tweeted about this edible arrangement and everyone I ran into the next day begged me to tell them who the coach was. Dan Campbell? Steve Belichick?
I’ll never reveal his identity—unless you catch me at Prime at 3:00 a.m.