With the NFL Scouting Combine taking place this week in Indianapolis, we conducted a virtual roundtable discussion with three players the Bears drafted about their experiences at the league's annual event.
(Jackson participated in interviews and medical testing at the Combine but not on-field drills because he was recovering from a broken leg.)
How would you describe your Combine experience?
Kwiatkoski: "It was hectic. You've got testing, meetings, drug tests at 4 or 5 a.m. It's just nonstop. The toughest thing was probably getting rest. You're up early and you're going all day. I think your last meeting is at 11 p.m. and you've got to be up early the next day. Nothing really surprised me, but there was definitely a 'wow' factor when you're up early and the first thing you're doing in the morning is lining up to run the 40."
Jackson: "It's really like a meat market. You're walking up there in front of a bunch of people with your shirt off. It's a nervous feeling. Outside of that part, there are a lot of meetings. The cool thing is you get to learn different types of schemes on the fly. When you go in a room, they put you on a board, and you learn how to draw plays and explain positions and stuff like that."
Smith: "There were definitely a lot of interviews, but I feel like I learned a lot and it helped me grow because there's some adversity you face at the Combine. Meeting so many of the top players and seeing how you compete, interact and perform with those guys, I really enjoyed that experience."
What was the camaraderie like among players at your position; did everyone root for each other?
Jackson: "There was a lot of love and a lot of support for each other. You'd think it would be different, like guys going against each other. But everybody was rooting for each other, especially when everybody stepped on that field. It was like we had all been in the same DBs room for our whole college career. That was one thing I liked; there was no hate. Everybody was cheering for each other. I thought that was kind of cool."
Smith: "It was a great experience interacting with the other guys and [learning about] their backgrounds. Luckily, my roommate at the Combine was Leighton [Vander Esch], and we actually trained together in Phoenix, so it wasn't like I was new to him or anything like that. It was also good to see a lot of my guys that I went to college with (at Georgia) that I hadn't seen in a while because we were all training in different places."
Kwiatkoski: "There was competition, but I would say it was friendly competition. I played in the Senior Bowl, so I knew a lot of the guys from that experience. We were definitely pulling for each other. I know wanted to see everyone succeed."
Were you asked any strange questions during the team interviews?
Jackson: "The Patriots asked me, 'Where does the sun rise and where does the sun set?' I'm looking at him like, 'Are you serious? This has nothing to do with football.' I was thinking we were going to talk about plays or they'd tell me to draw something up, but they were asking me weird questions. They also asked me who was the President and vice president. It was Barack Obama and Joe Biden. I was looking at him like, 'Are you really going to keep asking me these type of questions?'"
Kwiatkoski: "I wasn't really hit with any crazy questions. I was expecting it because I had heard stories. I got asked what I thought my Madden rating would be if that team drafted me. I forgot who asked me and I don't remember exactly what I said, but I said something modest. It kind of caught me off guard. That was probably the weirdest question I got."
After the Combine, which team did you think was going to draft you?
Smith: "I thought there were four or five teams that could take me. I thought it was going to be either Indy [at No. 6], the Bears [at No. 8], Oakland had 10 and then Miami at 11. I felt like my stock kept going up from the time I left college. It was late first when I first left college and then at the Combine I felt like I killed the interviews and I tested really well."
Jackson: "At first I really thought I was going to the Chargers. And then I thought it was either going to be Detroit or Atlanta. But then my agent called me and told me that the Bears traded up and were going to pick me."
What advice would you give prospects attending this year's Combine?
Kwiatkoski: "Stay focused, be yourself and just be ready for anything."
Jackson: "Get your rest and just get through it. You're only going to go through it once. And be a huge sponge; soak everything up and learn as much as possible."
Smith: "Be yourself and tell the truth. There's no reason to hide anything. A lot of the questions they ask, they already know the answers. They've done their research. So be honest, and hold your head high. If you made mistakes in the past, be open about it because it's in the past."