You couldn’t really blame Tom Telesco if he waltzed into his old stomping grounds with his chest held high. After spending 15 years earning his keep with the Colts, the Combine marks his return to Indianapolis as one of only 32 NFL general managers at the ripe young age of 40.
But that’s not who Tom Telesco is.Photo Gallery: McCoy, Telesco at the Combine | More Photos
Humble and hardworking, he’s staying true to form, taking a business-like approach to this week’s important event. Thus, this year’s combine feels like any other from his past.
“Right now, honestly, it really doesn’t feel a lot different,” he said about returning to Indy. “Even when I worked and lived here, we would stay downtown in a hotel. So even that’s the same. And a lot of the things we’ll be doing are the same. We’ll interview the prospects at night, evaluate the players at Lucas Oil Stadium during the day and look over their medical records. So right now things feel very much the same. Now as we get closer to the draft, I’m sure that’s going to change. But as far as being back in Indy, it’s been great to see my family and friends. I came in a couple days early to spend time with them, so that’s been nice. But as far as the job’s concerned, it’s been the same. Although going to Lucas Oil Stadium and walking down the hallways with a different logo on my shirt, that’s certainly a different feeling.”
There are also other significant differences this year that are apparent, including one that hits close to home.
“One big difference is that I’m working as a GM while (former Colts general manager) Bill Polian is working as a member of the media,” he said with a laugh. “But it was great to meet up with him and talk football in general. He’s a guy that I learned so much from, and he’s a great historical resource. I can compare things to what he’s seen in all his years on the job. Everything I’m going through right now he went through at Buffalo when he got his first job as a general manager, so he’s a great resource to talk to about that. But it’s been kind of funny watching him all dressed up working with the media instead of being on the football side.”
Being back at Lucas Oil Stadium also brought back significant memories for Telesco, many of them positive ones that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
“I have tons of good memories in there because we won lots of games,” he said. “It’s hard to single out just one, but one that comes to mind is beating the Jets in the 2009 AFC Championship game to go to the Super Bowl. Even just walking by where the RCA Dome was, thinking about beating New England to go to the Super Bowl the first time on a Marlon Jackson interception to finish the game – I’ll never forget that my whole career. “
Now, Telesco looks forward to forging new memories with the Chargers, and an important building block to doing so is evaluating the talent here at the combine. As a result, Telesco isn’t content to simply rehash old memories but is instead hard at work to ensure the Chargers select the best possible players come April.
“What we’re really here for is to see the players,” Telesco said. “And the biggest thing at the combine for us is the medicals. All 32 teams have a chance to get their hands on a player’s physical, and it’s really important to get that thorough medical examination of the players. The second part that I find to be most important would probably be the interviews. We don’t get a whole lot of one-on-one time with these players. In the fall we can watch them practice, play on tape and see them in live games, but we really can’t talk to them. But at the combine, we get to sit down, spend some time with them, get to know their personality and a little bit about them and their football intelligence. We get to see if they are a good fit for us and what we are trying to build from a culture standpoint.”
So what is it that Telesco is looking for in these all important interviews?
“The big thing I’m looking for is a general overall feeling on how much these guys love football,” he said. “When it becomes a job for them, they have to really love it. They are coming from college where they are students learning their way through and playing football on a scholarship. But now in the NFL, it is their professional job. It’s their life’s work, so you want guys that really love the game because nobody is coming into the league as a readymade player. You have to get better, and to do that you need to have the passion for it, the work ethic and the drive to do what is necessary. In addition to that we try to gauge their football intelligence. We’ll put them on the board and have some video to get their feel on how they understand football and how quickly they can process the information. Players who can’t process information play slow. Even if you run fast on a stopwatch, if you can’t process what’s going on you’re going to play slow, so that’s another big thing I’m looking for.”
Tom Telesco isn’t one to revel in being back in the city of his past glory. Instead, his first NFL Scouting Combine as a general manager will be taken with the same focused attitude as each past year, but with a much different goal at hand: to get the Chargers back on track in 2013.