By Chris Hayre

My time at Medill has been nothing short of exceptional. The latest example of this was my ability to cover the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Before starting at Medill, I spent a combined 11 seasons in corporate sponsorships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Redskins and have indelible memories of playoff wins and championship parades. When I decided to pursue my master’s degree in broadcast journalism, one of the things that attracted me to this program was the opportunity to report at high-profile sporting events. Through Medill’s blossoming Sports Media Specialization, I was credentialed for the combine as a reporter with Medill News Service.

During the last week of February, Indianapolis was the center of the football universe. I’ve heard it referred to as the NFL’s spring break. Coaches, general managers, scouts, executives, media personalities and agents converge on the city for more than meets the eye. Beyond the 40-yard dash and the on-field drills we are all privy to, it’s the who’s who of the NFL enjoying steak dinners at St. Elmo’s and late nights at the JW Marriott.

I was able to work among the biggest talents in our industry, including several Medill alums like ESPN’s Adam Schefter. I had the opportunity to conduct on-camera interviews with some of the brightest minds and personalities in football, namely ESPN’s Matthew Berry, NFL Films’ Greg Cosell, Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner and NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks. It was fascinating to garner Cosell’s thoughts on the state of the running back position in today’s game and listen to Brooks break down a player’s strengths.

Then there were the coaches and prospects. I sat in on the press conferences of many NFL coaches and general managers, as well as several of the first-round hopefuls. Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell was peppered with questions about not running the 40-yard dash. Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith addressed his knee injury from the Fiesta Bowl that has many teams moving him down their draft board.

Surprisingly the most refreshing part of the combine was sitting down with the mid-to-late round prospects that earnestly answered my questions about their journey to the NFL. Everyone has a story, and it was great to get to know these players on a more personal level.

The four-day experience culminated in the production of quality on-camera interviews, stand-ups and player breakdowns. But perhaps as equally important as the content I created were the relationships that I forged and further strengthened. There truly isn’t a better place to network.

At the end of April, I will be covering the 2016 NFL Draft in Chicago. You would be hard pressed to find another journalism program in the country that provides this kind of exclusive access for its students.

The NFL has always been my passion and it is my hope to obtain a position as an NFL reporter upon graduation. As a 15-year veteran of the sports industry, I know just how competitive this field can be. These immersive experiences, coupled with the guidance of world-class faculty and alumni, have put me in position to make my long-term goals a reality.