Mel Kiper in 2011. Apr 28, 2011; New York, NY, USA; ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

There have been many pieces written over the years on how Mel Kiper Jr. went from obscure outsider to ESPN NFL Draft coverage regular and presumed authority in the draft world. But a key moment in Kiper’s relevance to the general population came in 1994, his 11th year of working for ESPN. There, Indianapolis Colts’ GM Bill Tobin took exception to Kiper’s criticisms of him passing on Trent Dilfer, responding with “Who the hell is Mel Kiper?” And, oddly enough, that wound up making Kiper much more famous.

This was just one part of a long football career for Tobin. Following a college career as a running back at Missouri, he played in the AFL with the Houston Oilers in 1963, then played for the CFL’s (then) Edmonton Eskimos in 1964 and 1965. He then went on to a notable career as a pro football executive, including serving as the general manager of the Chicago Bears from 1987-1992, holding that role with the Indianapolis Colts from 1994-96, and serving as the Detroit Lions’ director of player personnel from 2001-02.

But what Tobin was perhaps most known for with the general public was his 1994 comments on Kiper, covered in the above-referenced NFL Films feature here. And while he was not the first or last figure to criticize Kiper, Tobin’s 1994 comments were a big part of elevating Kiper’s status and fame, as discussed in that NFL Films piece. So it was certainly notable to see Kiper chime in with a favorable comment on Tobin Friday:

That’s a notably-charitable reaction from Kiper, especially considering what Tobin once said about him. But Tobin’s comments wound up being a significant part of Kiper’s overall rise. So it was cool to see him salute even a former critic this way.

[Mel Kiper Jr. on Twitter/X]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.