Eli Apple, the 20-year-old former-Ohio State cornerback, who is expected to be selected in the NFL draft first round in April, made headlines on Friday when he revealed that an NFL assistant coach had asked him a strange and inappropriate question during an interview at last week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. But while the NFL announced that it would “look into” the questioning by an unnamed coach for the Atlanta Falcons, Apple is not the first draft prospect to be on the receiving end of a bizarre question from an NFL team.
Apple revealed during a local television interview Friday that the Falcons assistant had asked him flat out if he was gay.
The revelation came during a morning interview show on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. Apple was born in Philadelphia and attended high school in Voorhees, New Jersey.
“One of the coaches, was like, ‘So do you like men?'” Apple recounted on the Comcast program. “It was like the first thing he asked me. It was weird. I was just like, ‘No.’ He was like, ‘If you’re going to come to Atlanta, sometimes that’s how it is around here. You’re going to have to get used to it.’ I guess he was joking, but they just ask most of these questions to see how you’re going to react.”
Later on Friday, Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn, who also declined to name the offending coach, confirmed that Apple had indeed been asked the inappropriate question, and issued an apology.
“I am really disappointed in the question that was asked by one of our coaches,” Quinn said in a written statement issued by the team. “I have spoken to the coach that interviewed Eli Apple and explained to him how inappropriate and unprofessional this was. I have reiterated this to the entire coaching staff and I want to apologize to Eli for this even coming up. This is not what the Atlanta Falcons are about and it is not how we are going to conduct ourselves.”
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy also issued a statement on behalf of the league.
“This is disappointing and clearly inappropriate as the Falcons acknowledged,” McCarthy said. “We will look into it.”
Watch an excerpt from the Eli Apple interview in the video below.
But according to Mike Florio, the editor of NBC-owned site Pro Football Talk, the incident involving Eli Apple was not the first time an NFL coach or scout has asked an inappropriate question of a draft prospect, questions often of a sexual nature.
In 2013, University of Colorado tight end Nick Kasa — who was drafted that year by the Oakland Raiders — told ESPN Radio that he had received questions sounding similar to the query later leveled at Apple.
“They ask you like, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ Are you married?’ Do you like girls?'” Kasa said at the time. “Those kinds of things, and you know it was just kind of weird. But they would ask you with a straight face, and it’s a pretty weird experience altogether.”
Three years earlier, Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland interviewed Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant — now a star receiver with the Dallas Cowboys. During the interview, Ireland asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.
Bryant later said that he struggled to conceal his anger at the question.
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Finally, according to CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler, one unidentified NFL team at this year’s combine asked a prospect a question even more outlandish that the one leveled at Eli Apple.
Strangest interview question I’ve heard a NFL team ask a prospect so far: Do you find your mother attractive? #NFLCombine
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 25, 2016
“During their interviews with players, teams want to put players in uncomfortable spots to see how they think on their feet, to gauge reactions rather than canned answers prepared weeks or months in advance. But sometimes, in their effort to be clever, teams cross the line,” wrote Florio. “And whichever team did this one, crossed the line in a major way.”
The Falcons are unlikely to draft Eli Apple, in any event. The former Buckeye defensive back is expected to be selected as high as 11th in the first round, by the Oakland Raiders.
[Featured Photo By Joe Robbins/Getty Images]