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O'Connell & Adofo-Mensah Explain Value of Combine Interviews

In the past several weeks, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O'Connell sat down as candidates for job interviews to explain their plan for leading the Vikings to football's ultimate goal.

The vision they articulated earned the general manager and head coach their first opportunities in those respective roles.

Now in Indianapolis for the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell have a multitude of tasks ahead of them.

A significant time commitment includes formal interviews with prospects who have been invited to the NFL's biggest job fair for incoming players.

From Monday through Saturday, the more than 300 prospects were available in waves of formal interviews that can last roughly 15 minutes with each team that makes a request.

Quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends were in the first wave of prospects and wrap their interview availability Wednesday before on-field workouts Thursday.

The interview window for offensive linemen and running backs was scheduled for Tuesday through Thursday. Those groups will hit the field Friday.

Defensive linemen and linebackers will be available for interviews from Wednesday through Friday before hitting the field Saturday. Cornerbacks and safeties will follow with interviews Thursday through Saturday and workouts Sunday.

The cycle can get quite repetitive, but O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah value the opportunities.

Fourteen years ago, O'Connell was in the shoes and seat of prospects. His combine experience and college career as a QB at San Diego State factored into New England drafting him in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

O'Connell told Twin Cities media members Tuesday, "Those formal interviews will always be unique from the standpoint of being able to use the 15 to 18 minutes, whatever it is to get, really, three questions answered that I look for, right? Do they love football? And really, this is all positions. What's their capacity to recall the things they've already been taught, and then what is their capacity to learn the things we'll directly try to teach them moving forward?

"So it's a lot to figure out in a 15-minute sit-down setting, whether you're using film or the white board or just have those guys speak in the language they're coming from," O'Connell continued, "and how much ownership they have with that can tell you a lot about their capacity to learn what we're going to try to do with guys."

Asked a follow-up for how to figure out if a player truly loves football, O'Connell said, "You can normally tell if a guy sits up in his chair or [lights] up when you ask a question about a good play or a bad play."

"Our position coaches have put together some great tapes with some of these guys and, shoot, I know some of my greatest memories of the combine are walking into some of those formals and the only plays we watched were of me giving the ball to the other team and trying to explain the why and what happened. Every turnover has its own story, but at the end of the day, whether it's a touchdown or an interception, there are learning opportunities that these guys can bring forward with them as they make this jump into our league."

Adofo-Mensah mentioned to Twin Cities media members Tuesday that the process reminded him of conducting college entrance interviews.

"I'd interview these kids and I'd always leave those interviews being like, 'I have no idea how I got into this school because these kids are all better than me,' " Adofo-Mensah said. "And you see it from these guys and they come in and you're trying to grade them on their recall and it's like, they're all great. It's some level of great. You're trying to mince small details there."

More recently, Adofo-Mensah went through a rigorous interview process for the Vikings general manager position and then quickly joined the search committee's efforts in evaluating candidates for the spot that O'Connell earned.

Adofo-Mensah told Vikings Entertainment Network's Tatum Everett last week that the immersive experience was an "affirmation of process."

"It's something I always believed in, but going through it myself and being impressed by the process the Vikings ran when hiring me and ending up with the decision of Kevin, you know, you get a lot of information, and it's swirling and things are happening," Adofo-Mensah said. "When you come to your office, you close the door, the lights are on and it's just you and your computer, and you ask the questions, 'Hey, this is what I value in this position, and here's the evidence that either matches or doesn't match' — the decision comes pretty clear after that fact. That's the same thing when it comes to evaluating players."

View photos at Head Coach Kevin O'Connell at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Although all signs so far point to Kirk Cousins returning for a fifth season as Minnesota's QB — and possibly longer if the team and player pursue and agree to an extension — O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah said there's never a bad time to do recon on the sport's most important position.

"You always want to do your work on the quarterback class each and every year," O'Connell said. "It's something I've done, even going back to my time as a player."

Adofo-Mensah, who rose the ranks through his work in research and development with San Francisco and Cleveland, said with "every information source that you have, you should be intentional about what you can actually get out of it."

" 'What are you trying to learn? What can you actually learn in an interview setting?' You're at a combine workout, 'What [can you] learn and be detailed and thoughtful about that?'

"Don't overdo it, don't underdo it. Be intentional about it in advance," Adofo-Mensah continued. "People want to think about what exact positions you should look for. [The Combine] is a great information source. You want to be diligent about every position group and every player, whether or not they come in this draft or four years down the line in a trade. … You want to treat this as a piece of information to observe them in this environment, compete against their peers and see how it shakes out."