This week, the mother of a young man I used to coach several years ago reached out, hoping I could help put his film in the hands of a few college personnel friends. I was happy to do it. However, when I texted his Hudl link to a half-dozen of my contacts in personnel departments across the country, it reinforced the volatility of the game.
One friend called me back promptly, indicating that he’d moved into a Chief of Staff position at a mid-major school. Having reached his 50s, he was not ashamed to tell me his zeal for chasing a job in NFL scouting was waning. Keep in mind that my friend had served at number P5 schools and even interned in the NFL, but had never quite gotten over the hump. His wife had a good job, so he wanted to be very smart about the jobs he pursued, and the lengths he could (or would) go to pursue his dreams.
Another reached out to tell me he’d moved into one of the top NIL-related companies in the game. This caught me off guard; he had been as locked-in and highly regarded as anyone in the industry, and having known him for years, I just knew he’d land in the NFL promptly. He was cordial and kind, but obviously, helping the young man find a school would not be possible.
Two more of my friends were still in the fight, still chasing their goals, though I sensed their focus was more on college success than pursuit of the NFL. Neither of them asked about possible league opportunities. They just complimented the young man’s film and gave tips on next steps.
Then, around mid-week, I was contacted by another recruiting specialist who had had stops at a number of P5 programs. Having reached his 30s and married, he was coming to the conclusion that the NFL would probably not be his final destination. He was looking for answers, and maybe wondering if he’d gone too far to turn back.
Each of them provided a sharp contrast to the dozens of young men I encounter this time of year, when talented young personnel specialists are looking for every lead on an interview with a pro team. It got me thinking, what words of wisdom could I provide to people desperate to work in NFL player evaluation? How could I encourage them without selling them on an unattainable dream? This is what I came up with.
- You have to have the most up-to-date info on openings at all time. Follow every social media source that covers NFL hiring and firing. Also, if you’re serious about this, subscribe to ITL, as well. No one covers the construction of NFL scouting staffs like we do.
- Recognize that getting an NFL job is dependent almost solely on your network. Who you know is maybe as important in landing an NFL post as in any other industry. I respect people that want to be excellent at their jobs, but you better be excellent at networking, too. That’s probably the regret I hear most often from friends in scouting and coaching who are trying to get back in.
- NFL teams most often hire people in their 20s who don’t have a lot of strings attached. For this reason, give yourself till the age of 30 to pursue the NFL. If it doesn’t happen, don’t postpone key relationships or family plans. Instead, shift your sights to success on the college level.
- Understand that football has moved from the “sports” domain to the entertainment world. That means the people attracted to it are sometimes less driven by love of the game, competition, and the idea of “team,” and more driven by naked personal ambition. It also means the people around you — the fans, the players, their parents, the head coaches, the assistant coaches, and the administrators — are more likely to take a “win at all costs” approach than previous generations might have. In all honesty, they are less prone to think of you as a human being. Forgive them, but accept this.
- This is the most important point. Long before I launched ITL, I thought that only the most talented, smartest, hardest-working people made it into the league. No disrespect to the people in the league, but that’s not at all the case. It’s mostly about contacts and luck just to get that opportunity. Then, once you do get it, that’s when the intelligence and work ethic and everything else come in. Bottom line, if you never make it to the league, you’re not a failure. The ball just didn’t bounce your way.
If you’ve made it this far, I hope you are encouraged. On the other hand, maybe you’re discouraged, or maybe you completely reject my thoughts. Any result is understandable. However, I hope you trust that I’m just a guy who’s seen lots of capable people travel this road, and my thoughts come from what I’ve seen of those few who made it where they wanted to and the many, many who did not.