The Apocalypse Combine: Where Mel Kiper Says You Don't Make It

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 1: Defensive back Patrick Peterson #37 of LSU runs the 40-yard dash during the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The format of the NFL Combine needs to be used elsewhere in life, but nowhere more so than in the coming Apocalypse.

"Well, wow, what if we did everything like the NFL Combine?" asks your friend who says dumb things like this all the time. This friend probably thinks being a beer snob is an acceptable thing, and hates certain cars like they're evil, and watches the Big Bang Theory and all those other things dumb people enjoy. Ahhh, why are you even friends with "Dumb Straw Person" who lets you begin articles with easy segues? One day you'll figure it out.

The reason we do not have to ask this question: we already evaluate people like the NFL evaluates talent. There are standardized tests in school, professional standards tests, and all sorts of little specialized hoops created to test someone's true commitment to pursuing a career, but often not their actual talent. The critiques of the NFL Combine are the same we have for every stupid, somewhat arbitrary litmus test you have to pass to gain access on merit in our society: they are as much a test of your ability to prepare for a test as they are an indication of your actual talent.

This does not invalidate them. You have to measure something about your commodities, or otherwise we are all left in Brett Favre GrittyToughnessWinnerLand. A fast 40 and shuttle run does, yes, indicate your obscene quickness. The vertical is a good indicator of your overall athleticism. The bench press proves you can do a lot of bench presses, and this is where we mention that the clean would be a much better relative measure of football strength, but whatever, bench press supremacists.

Still, the Combine only looks weird because you get to go through what NFL players go through in a few weeks over the course of your lifetime. Your IQ is measured in elementary school, and your other attributes examined for the better part of 12 years of compulsory education. Your physical attributes are less known, but that's probably for the best. Most American men believe they can run a 5.0 40 yard dash. Most American men are idiots holding their ruptured hamstrings after clocking a 5.5 and complaining about how their shoes, man, they're just not right for this running surface.

You don't have a Combine for life at its most basic, and that is a shame. But it's not too late. It's never, ever too late, especially with the Mayan Apocalypse just around the corner.


First, let's dismiss you zombie enthusiasts. In a scenario like the general one we're embracing, you will have all of the terror you can handle. Slow, flesh-eating undead walkers have nothing on a jeep full of teenagers high on cheap meth armed with automatic weapons and the worst intentions imaginable. The horrors are real, but so are the skills needed to survive them.

Like all combines, scouts will begin with a few simple questions. First, do you have gel in your hair? Do you wear it on a regular basis? If so, you are eliminated instantly. Gel in the hair is not only creepy and weird, it is also a sign you have evolved too far into the evolutionary niche offered by early 21st century technoslug living. I am sorry. No one said the apocalypse was fair.

Two: do you have a criminal record? In the NFL Combine this is a bad thing, but here some experience with the black market and prison life has real value. Mention this ahead of time to scouts to let them know that though you may not have been through the apocalypse yet, you certainly have visited its suburbs.

Three: Do you live in Detroit? Real, half-dead inner-city Detroit? For once, this is not a negative thing to mention. You are a clear first-rounder along with anyone who has already successfully negotiated an urban survival situation.

Four: did you just look around the room looking for water, food, or anything else you could conceivably steal? Good. You and the thousands of others who steal hotel towels, pens, and one too many mints from restaurants may be today's silent thieves, but you are tomorrow's "ingenious scavengers."

For each "yes" you gave, award yourself five points.


The Apocalypse Combine can't assume too much, but it does know this: you are going to have to run. The distances might vary, the terrain could be anything from thick brush to open road, and the pursuers may be slower than you or riding motorcycles. If they are riding motorcycles, you are probably dead, but no one's a quitter in the post-Apocalyptic world.

The running minimums to be on Team Apocalypse's draft board come from the United States Marine Corps' standards. We use them instead of the Army's because we are more terrified of the Marines than we are of the Army, and also because they include a three mile standard instead of a simple mile. Someone might run after you for a mile, but anything past that is going to cut into energy reserves they might not have. (Or that you might not have, but still, three miles is a long damn way to chase someone for a half-eaten, three month old McChicken sandwich.)

If you know you can run around a nine-minute mile for three miles straight, you may award yourself 20 points in our rating system. A 10-minute mile for three miles straight is worth 10 points. Anything less is awarded no points, because you have already been sold for your organs. :(

Be honest. You might lie, but the stopwatch and kidney bandits of Baltimore will uncover your lies.


The sad fact is that you cannot scavenge forever. In fact, scavenging will be outright dangerous, since everyone already knows where the food is, and also because those places will be filled with desperate, hungry people who might have weapons.

If you can name one non-conventional food plant in your yard or general vicinity you can eat safely in a survival situation, give yourself 10 points. If you just said "my dog," take away five points, only because you just took away something that finds food faster than you do and provides cheap security at the same time. Also, dogs aren't plants.

If you have hunting experience with a gun, scouts like you and award you five points.

However, if you want to say "I played in a pro-style offense that took the ball from under center on every snap," to the scouts, then tout your bow-hunting experience and earn 10 points. If you have killed a deer with your bare hands, you are almost certainly lying, and are awarded no points. Fishing without much gear is another five points, and if you've caught a fish with your bare hands you are a first round pick without any further examination or questioning. Points would be irrelevant. Proceed to first-string immediately.

Can you clean an animal? If you think this means bathing them, you must now deduct all of your points. If the answer is yes, you may award yourself another five points, and select another five bonus points for naming edible glands and organs of particular value.

If you are a vegetarian, you are fifth round material at best. Vegans are not eligible for the post-Apocalyptic Combine, because you are principled, ethical people who are already dead. (Note: this excludes Vegan Cannibals who will eat people, but insist on eating only other vegans.)


Let's not go overboard here. It would be great if you could deadlift twice your bodyweight, bench your bodyweight more than once, and squat a truck, but practical strength is going to have to be measured a bit differently in the post-Apocalyptic world.

Focus more on work capacity at bodyweight and carrying things you'll need. Can you do 100 pushups in five minutes, ruck a 60-pound pack across one mile in 20 minutes, and do 10 pullups in five minutes? Then you're pretty damn strong and capable in the general sense, and may award yourself 15 points.

(The Apocalypse Combine and Mother Nature favors flight over fight--it's just risk/loss math at play--but there will be some fight in the formula.)


Can you make a fire reliably without a lighter or any other devices besides the ones you might find on hand? If so, award yourself 15 points. If not, you are dead, and dead gets no points in our ratings system. Fire's pretty important even if you're hoping to run out the clock in a post-Apocalyptic world somewhere warm like Hawai'i.

Do not include "oh that one time I did it at camp with someone handing me flint and a bunch of gas-soaked Spanish Moss." That didn't count then, and it does not count now.


Quick quiz from the board! What is a weapon? If you answered "everything," award yourself 10 points. Everything in a crisis situation is a weapon, and you are Jason Bourne grabbing the phone book and an old power cord in a desperate attempt to knock someone out cold with whatever you have at hand. As Max Brooks pointed out in The Zombie Survival Guide, "a machete never needs reloading." By the way, if you said "the mind," you may continue in the competition as long as you feel very embarrassed right now.


If you have followed a martial arts discipline for a year of your life or more, award yourself five points. If you have seriously studied a martial art for five years, please award yourself 10 points. If you ARE a martial artist, you are drafted in the first round. If you are wearing a too-small gi with a brown belt and making chopsocky noises in the air, you are disqualified by a row of giggling judges.


Can you operate, reload, and clean a gun? Please take 10 points. Can you actually break down a weapon, fix a jam, and then reassemble and fire without blowing your hand off? Please take 15 points. Do you own a howitzer? Really? That's just scary, dude. You are awarded no points, and we are now running away from you.


Can you hotwire a car? Please award yourself five points, though how safe cars are is a very debatable thing indeed in the post-Apocalyptic Combine.

Can you ride a horse? Quickly, and without breaking your neck? Take another five points, and another five if you are willing to eat that same horse. It's those little details that make a champion, son, and we want you to be a champion.

Can you fly a plane? That's just foolish in a post-Apocalyptic scenario, but take five points anyway to justify those hours you spent in a crappy Cessna only useful in the future for showing you the hole where your house used to be.


Are you reading this while wearing a ghillie suit? That's just weird, unless you are also sitting in a room full of people who have no idea you are standing there. If this is the case, please award yourself 10 points. If not, take that thing off. You look like a Wookie with a horrendous fungal infection.


  • 100 and above: You are a first-round, can't miss Apocalypse Combine draftee. You are also probably already preparing for this, and are kind of terrifying to be around.
  • 80 to 99: Pro scouts are still interested in your substantial skills, provided you survive the first week of competition. Second or third round depending on team needs.
  • 60 to 79: Fourth round development projects. Rough value that will require training. May be used as decoys or food.
  • 59 and below: Hey, Piggy. At least you're the one everyone remembers from Lord of the Flies.

NOTE: The author falls squarely into the "food or decoys" category, but that's probably substantially better than Todd McShay or Mel Kiper does.

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