UIndy alum helps bring NFL Combine to Indianapolis
Audrey Schafer ‘09, events and program manager for National Football Scouting, Inc., is responsible for organizing the entire event and bringing it together as seamlessly as possible. Schafer, who graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a degree in sports management and a minor in business administration, works almost year-round to coordinate venues, vendors, players and team schedules.
The National Invitational Camp, what we all know as the NFL Combine, culminates over the course of approximately one week in late February, but the lifecycle for planning the event goes well beyond that. “The Combine actually does not end for me until the NFL Draft,” Schafer said. “I will work with the NFL teams and their medical staffs from the start of the Combine until the draft to ensure they have all the information about players that they need.”
Immediately following the draft is when typical back-office operations take place to wrap up the current year, but focus quickly shifts to planning for the next year throughout the fall.
“During that time I work on anything from what we can do better, to how we can implement new technology, to new player gear design for the next event,” Schafer said. Once vendor contracts are generated in the early stages of winter, Schafer and her team then begin to finalize invitations and registration as well as begin to set the schedule for the event – which at that point is still months away!
Schafer enrolled at UIndy with the intention of becoming an athletic trainer. While she ultimately decided to follow a different path, she was interested in staying in the world of sports. Schafer credits her relationship with Dr. Jennifer VanSickle, program director of sport management and professor of kinesiology and health & sport sciences, and her willingness to provide career advice, for Schafer’s success today.
“Professor VanSickle encouraged me to try different facets of sports management to see what avenue I liked best,” Schafer said. “I took a public relations class and started working in the Athletics Department with Matt Donovan [Senior Associate Athletic Director for Development].”
Schafer enjoyed her time working in athletics, specifically on game days. She sought out more hours working games and events and she soon realized that event management was going to be her focus.
While the event management of the Combine follows the same template year after year, it is definitely never the same event twice. “Every year there is something that makes me stop and say, ‘well I haven’t done that before, but let’s figure it out,’” Schafer said.
Because of all of the planning that goes into the event, in a perfect world, the event itself is almost the easy part. “The two weeks leading up to the event are the toughest for me,” Schafer said. “That is the time that everyone needs something from you and it feels like there isn’t enough time to complete your to-do list. Luckily I have a great staff that helps pull everything together.”
Schafer isn’t the only important UIndy connection with the NFL Combine. “One of the unknown ways UIndy supports the Combine are our athletic training tables,” Schafer said. “Several years ago we purchased the training tables for our event, but did not have room to store them. I reached out to UIndy and worked out that they can use them for the year, free of charge, as long as they can transport them to us to use during the event.”
UIndy students have also had the opportunity to be involved in the Combine over the years. National Football Scouting works with the athletic training department at UIndy to identify a student to work as an intern for the week of the event. “This is a fantastic learning experience for the student as they work with our training staff throughout the week at the event, on the field, and at the bench press,” Schafer said.
In past years, coordinated through the Indianapolis Colts organization, athletic training students have also worked at local hospitals during the event to help take players’ orthopedic histories.
For the last several years, students have been able to volunteer to work at the NFL Combine Experience. They help with staffing of different areas throughout the Experience. “This is a great way for sports management students to get their volunteer hours in, and is set up and run through the NFL office directly,” according to Schafer.
These opportunities and those Schafer had during her time at UIndy are invaluable to students trying to discover their passions and how they will use them in their future careers. “UIndy really helped shape who I have become as an adult,” Schafer said. “UIndy is a school that will give you back everything and more that you put into it.”
“I am proof that your professors are really there to help you succeed in every way possible,” she continued. “I was able to create a career that keeps me smiling and enables me to help guide others looking to get into the business, and provides me with unique ways to give back to my alma mater.”