Cover32/Ravens had an exclusive opportunity to reflect with Michael Switzer, father of Ryan Switzer, on what it is like to be the Dad of an NFL draft hopeful, and what his attendance of the NFL Combine, which Ryan participated in, was like. Here are his words.
Friday, March 3, 2017
“The whole thing, I’ve been thinking on for about a month. Kind of in awe.
My son gets to participate in something that I have watched and most people that are diehard football fans have followed for so long. I’m going, ‘Wow my kid is actually participating in this. And has a good opportunity to do well.’ So that is kind of neat.
I took his High School coach [Steve Edwards Jr., picture right]. And his long time trainer and friend/former teammate of mine [Matt Downey, picture middle]. We all drove up on Friday and it was one of those things like, we can’t wait to hear from him all the way up there, where he was, that kind of thing. Didn’t know what kind of time frame things were going on—when stuff was going to happen. So I mean, we were kind of flying blind. All we knew was that he was having meetings and then doing bench press. When we got there, he had already completed the bench press. We got there, like, five minutes after he got finished benching.
I went to pick up my credential right when we got there. I said, ‘Where do I go to get my field credential?’ They go ‘Field Credential? This isn’t for the field.’ Me: ‘I’m a photographer. I have all my gear with me.’ Them: ‘Those credentials are only authorized for people shooting for the AP, the NFL and Getty Images.’ (Which I could have arranged for myself, too.) And I asked, what good is this credential going to do me, and they said, this is for radio interviews, and I said, I’m not a writer, I’m a photographer. They told me it was for radio coverage in the
interview room in the convention center. So, I’ve got his coach and his trainer here. And I didn’t want to leave them hanging over in the outer Convention Center by themselves. So I just stick with them and just didn’t pursue it after that. Kind of a letdown because I’ve always been able to cover those things– whether it’s a bowl game, Senior Bowl or any of that kind of event, because I’m a working, credentialed press member. But this happens. You know, sometimes they [the applications] have boxes. They say, ‘interviews or photographer;’ you know, along those lines.
So by that time I get Ryan’s text about what he had benched. He said, “We’re headed back over and we’ve got meetings,” or something, and then immediately I see all these guys come out wearing their Combine shirts. Started seeing coaches left and right. I mean Tom Coughlin passed right by me, Doug Williams passed right by me. I was spinning around, was going to bump into some of the who’s who of NFL personnel. So it’s pretty cool from that standpoint.
I was pleased with his benchpress result. I mean, I had kind of a [target] number in my head. I’m sure he did too, as well as his trainer, and so forth. I’ve always kept an eye on that kind of thing. Comparatively, what he did was great. I’ve been following this for so long and I see the numbers posted by other wide receivers; NFL guys. He and I would always talk: “Hey, such-and-such did this, somebody else did that.” I was a competitive bodybuilder and power lifter for ten years and had a lot going to for me in that world. As strict as those meets are, I kind of figured that’s how strict they would be at the combine. No bouncing off of your chest. So you don’t have guys who go out and get numbers and then it’s like false advertising. If you actually do it the way an exercise is supposed to be done, it’s a little bit harder. You can appreciate real reps.
So they were going to meetings, we didn’t know if we would get to see him or anything. I’m thinking, I drove to Indianapolis to see this thing, now having to get my mind around the fact that we’re not going in. We decided, let’s go take a look at the city, over by the stadium, and see what’s what. Ryan was sequestered meeting with people and going through their whole gamut of interviews. I had known that he had interviews that night with teams that went on for however long. We took in the evening. Later, after he was done, he just texted us and told us where he was. Not able to visit, but focused.
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Next morning, we got up really early because we wanted to get over there. Ryan’s wide receiver coach said that it was a leap of faith, but that they let families in, upon request. We decided to just give it a shot. We get up, and I was really surprised because Indianapolis was so quiet Saturday morning. We go around and we park and walk over there and try to get in. And of course the guy says, we can’t get in. And I say, well, my son is participating. ‘Well, you’ve got to have a press credential.’ I ask, will this work for me? I mean it was my official credential from the NFL. But again: this was just for meetings and that room. No go. Time to go across the street.
At the convention center, we knew they had big screen TV and we were resigned to trying to find a place to watch it from that point. Again, kind of a let down. We thought we’d be able to see it in person. But we just found a way over to the convention center. We actually met
some other players’ parents. We met Taywon Taylor’s [WR, Western Kentucky] parents over there and started talking to them about the whole process and experience. And how exciting that was with them. That was a good thing. Still, it’s tough to watch ton a big screen television when you know what’s going on right next door and you rarely hear anything in those kind of venues.
Ryan texted that the Long Jump was grueling. I can’t imagine. I mean, I’m sitting there watching this. He was in the second group of receivers. I was watching the first group come out and start running the 40. I know that my kid has probably been up since about six, if not earlier. We’ve been talking about piquing or preparing for an event like that. Anything that you’ve got have a time for is all about stretching and being warmed up properly. And all I know was that he was back in a room waiting until their group went out. And trying to prepare, and they’re watching it on TV and seeing guys run. His teammate Mack Hollins pulled up and I guess pulled his quad muscle or whatever. So he was shut down for the rest of the day. A sad turn for a good friend. It’s a good test that the NFL puts these athletes through. Can you survive the mental stress, as well as the physical test?
Everybody always wants to know how fast you are. I know he got more questions on that than anything. I think, whenever he was being interviewed [by general press in game settings], at least from what I saw. That is kind of an anticipation of the thing. Ryan’s been asked that question since before he came to Carolina. I always just responded, fast enough never to be caught from behind.
Because there were the two, three guys who were before him so we kind of watched that ticker. I’m sitting there like anyone, just hoping. When I work in a game or event, if I’m covering something, I’m occupied. I’m not sitting there staring at something. So you’re kind of caught up in what you’re doing. Now, I’m sitting in the Convention Center and watching the big screen and you got all the noise around you and it was just nerve wracking from that standpoint just because I don’t like sitting still in a chair watching something. I walked over to another television monitor, or went over and looked at what somebody was doing at the fan experience exhibit. Anything so I just wasn’t sitting down.
And you know what was the sad part of that is that, John Ross [WR, Washington] for instance, you know he was in the same group and he ran that great time. And so the announcers were covering–I think they spent the rest of the time talking about–John Ross and his time. Doing all the comparisons with Chris Johnson and all the guys from the past. The rest of the guys, the present and future if you will, they didn’t really even follow that much. Ryan was in this number. They kind of did a recap and came back and showed them running their 40s again.
I didn’t get to see my son run the NFL Combine 40, live.
You know what. You have to just go with it. That’s what happens when you watch the stuff on tv on the set of watching it live.
There are many different angles. People have their own times. Some actually got 4.45 which is what we kind of anticipated where he would be. That’s what his agent told me; that’s what scouts had his time as. And when I saw that come up from the handheld or whatever the unofficial time I saw on the [NFLN] tracker, that kind of makes you go, OK well he’s good. I was sure he’d feel good about that.
Afterward, I got on the phone with his agent or his agent called me, and he asked where we were. I told him that we had left the fan experience and we’re back in the hotel. Where we were going, there’s a bar to sit down and watch the rest of it. He asked if we want to see him. I told him that would be great because they’re flying out–they were putting him on a plane right after that their session was over with. I mean, they didn’t have much time at all. It turned out that we were actually only staying like two blocks down from their hotel. So we got in a cab, and it took us down the street to where where he was packing up when we got to him. Saw him for about five minutes. That was good because I’d really brought his High School coach and his trainer with me because I wanted them to see that event in person and just being him. People don’t go to that meeting; not every high school player gets to do that so high school coaches they rarely get that chance to see one of the guys that they coached, doing this. I got to grab some quick pictures of them and let them see him literally for about five minutes.
I’m trying to just enjoy the moments. Take it all in. I’ll never do any of this again, simply because of the way my family is built. He’s preparing for something that is really exclusive. We’re trying to enjoy all of that.
And either way, no matter what, I stay proud of my son.