I recently spent 2 days at the NFL Combine, and I kept having flashbacks to my own Combine experience: The Miss America Pageant.
I’ve always been told that a parent is more likely to have a son play in the Super Bowl than a daughter compete at Miss America. Statistically it’s true. Only 52 girls compete in Miss America each year, and it’s a one-and-done scenario. Now, I’m not comparing these two programs (the talent, strength, and agility on display at the NFL Combine is super-human), but the similarities in preparation and competition between the Miss America Pageant and the NFL Combine are just too good not to share….
The contestants are on full-display, all the time. They are dressed in identical outfits, lined-up for comparison. Judges examine body type and fitness level during each phase of competition. The contestants come from every state in the country, have different backgrounds, stories, and family lives, but they all share the same goal: competing at the next level.
Years, and years, and years of training prepare the contestants for these moments. I started piano lessons at age 7 and competed 4 years at Miss Mississippi before finally reaching the Miss America stage.
Fitness/Diet, Talent, Interview. These are the elements to master before the competition. Choosing vegetables over dessert, an extra hour of cardio over a time with friends, studying over television. These decisions matter when you are sitting on the bench or stretching your legs, waiting to perform.
Teams of trainers, agents, and support staff keep the contestants focused, mentally and physically healthy. It’s all a game. My mom would always tell me, “Keep your blinders on, you are only competing against yourself.”
As I mentioned before, the feats at the Combine: super-human. However, I have also seen some pretty incredible talents at Miss America. I am just so thankful that my weight and bust measurements weren’t plastered across national television and social media. I am now oddly curious about my wingspan and the advantage of my hand size (specifically the thumb to pinky reach) in playing the piano. You know what they say about a girl with big hands… oh wait…
The miraculous displays of talent are impressive, but the interviews are equally important. Who are you? What kind of leader will you be? How do you handle adversity? Now, of course they don’t ask these questions straight out. Everything is coded. What is your favorite color? Movie? Pet? Or sometimes Chris Matthews asks you on national television, “What is the status of race relations in post-Katrina Mississippi?” (true story) Regardless of the questions asked, the contestants are given an opportunity to show who they really are.
Pure talent is not the only determining factor for long-term success. Every year big names become NFL busts (Ryan Leaf, JaMarcus Russell), and some players left out of the Combine have superior careers (Wes Welker) and even Super Bowl rings (Kurt Warner). It is all up to the competitor inside the individual.
The Nike Suite at NFL Combine
My Combine Experience: Miss America 2007, 3rd Runner Up