INDIANAPOLIS -- At the end of the offseason, video director Mike Dougherty will retire after a legendary 37-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles. But before he hangs up his camera, he made his annual trek to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. It's the 32nd time he's been here, including 27 years in Indianapolis. Dougherty – or "Doc," as he's affectionately known around the organization – is one of the many people who play an important role in making the NFL Scouting Combine a tightly run operation.
He's there as the Eagles' video representative, but his main role is as one of four group video leaders for the NFL. In this role, he helps oversee the filming and execution of the player drills. After the drills are over, he helps ensure that all the film is processed and available for every NFL team by the following day.
"We have handheld cameras for quarterbacks on the ground for the drops, we have hand-held cameras for punters, kickers, long snappers," Dougherty said. "Then we have the up-top cameras for defensive backs and wide receivers. We have cameras running everywhere and that's what I'm in charge of – telling the cameras which ones are going and who's up next and trying to keep the players in line, because it goes pretty fast."
As the video representative down on the field, Dougherty is also in regular communication with the coaches who are running the drills.
"Those coaches, we've worked with most of those guys for years so we know what they want, they know what we want," he said. "If we have to stop a drill for any reason, a camera jam, anything, they know and it works out. Everybody wants the videotape."
Over the years, the NFL Scouting Combine has become bigger in every way. There are more players, more drills, more media and more fans. So far, the NFL has issued over 800 media credentials to this year's Scouting Combine. Only 20 short years ago, they issued just over a dozen.
"I would have never believed it 30 years ago," Dougherty said. "I never thought the Combine would go live. And it's live now; it's a show. There are so many people that watch this. I'll come home and I'll be somewhere and somebody will come up to me and say, 'I saw you at the NFL Combine.' And I'm like 'Geez, you were watching the Combine?' There are that many people who are involved every day."
In Dougherty's first six years on the job, from 1976-81, the NFL had no formal event where multiple teams could evaluate draft-eligible players. It wasn't until 1982 that BLESTO, the NFL's first scouting organization formed in 1963 by representatives from the Bears, Lions, Eagles and Steelers, held a Combine-like event at Veterans Stadium.
"We used to go out and work out guys from different schools," he said. "I would get in the car with (former Eagles head coach) Dick Vermeil. I used to be on the road for three weeks going to different schools filming different players, and that was tough. The Green Bay Packers would be behind us waiting to work the same kid out; Denver would be next. The kids were just almost killed by the end of it. So they said, 'No, this is crazy. We're just going to bring everybody together, all the teams."
The Scouting Combine changed venues several times before settling in Indianapolis in 1987. From there, Dougherty has seen the event transform into what it is today.
"It really started to go crazy with the numbers of guys we had," he said. "It went from 50, 100, 150, 200, to now around 330 players. We used to have offensive linemen who were 280 pounds. Then it was 285, 290, 300, 310, 320. Every year, they just get bigger. You look at them and you go 'Wow, how big are they going to get?'"
The presence of NFL Network has also greatly impacted Dougherty's role at the Scouting Combine. The network began televising parts of the Combine in 2004 and began live coverage in 2006. Prior to that, the only cameras in the building were the ones Dougherty was helping oversee.
"They basically do the same things we do as far as shooting the players and taping the players," Dougherty said. "They get some more angles than we do. Everyone always says, 'Why do you both do it?' Well, the NFL teams want to go year-to-year; the same thing for film. So they know that last year's guys were filmed in the same way."
As Dougherty works his final NFL Scouting Combine for the Eagles, he confessed that he will definitely miss it. He expects to work it again next year for the NFL, but not for the entire week and not in the same involved role.
"I'll miss everything I do. This time next year, you know everything that they're doing because you've done it so much," he said. "The best part is you see everybody, you meet and work with all these guys every year and that part is really cool. It's fun to go to."
So will Dougherty watch it on TV?
"No, I don't think I will," he said with a smile. "I don't need to watch it. I've lived it for many years."
That's OK. Thanks to the work Dougherty and the league have done, millions of fans will.