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I wanted to take a minute today to talk about how important it is to volunteer in your quest for a career in football.

If you live in an NFL city, and you want to work in pro football, find a way to volunteer with your local team. If you have an FBS (or FCS, or good D2 or even D3) team in your city or town, go volunteer. Granted, volunteering for NFL teams may be a little harder, but usually if you poke around on a team’s website long enough you’ll find someone that will take you. As for colleges, summer camps have become a really big revenue stream for most coaching staffs, and if you’re willing to work for no pay, they can usually find something for you to do.

I’m always struck by how many people in awesome football jobs started off as volunteers, hung around, paid attention, showed their intelligence, and got hired. Dru Grigson started off as a volunteer scout with the Eagles in 2005, and 10 years later, he’s the Director of College Scouting for the Cardinals. Tom Ciskowski volunteered as a defensive coach with Butch Davis at Miami (Fla.) in 1985; in 2008, he was named Director of College and Pro Scouting for the Cowboys. Steven Price volunteered with the Panthers at the age of 16 and now he’s a scout with the Vikings.

Granted, some of them had an angle and had some assurances that if they put in work they’d get the first opening, but not all of them; Price started interning with the Panthers because his mother was a secretary there.

Can’t get an NFL team to even let you work for free? Have you tried the AFL route? Two Titans scouts, Jon Salge (Nashville Kats) and Brandon Taylor (Columbus Destroyers), were with AFL teams before landing a job in Tennessee. Bears scout Zach Truty was Director of Player Personnel with the Arizona Rattlers before coming to Chicago. Eagles scout Bret Munsey was Director of Player Personnel for the Orlando Predators before he latched on in Philly. Steelers area scout Mark Gorscak was the GM of Pittsburgh’s arena team in 1987 before moving over to the city’s NFL team.

I don’t know how many of these people got AFL positions by emailing resumes, knocking on doors or waiting in the parking lot to assail a top team executive. What’s more, there are lots of indoor teams of dubious nature that are not AFL teams, per se; they’re just teams trying to copy their model. Sometimes, these teams can be a little shaky and offer limited ability to provide reliable contacts.

Still, there are many routes into the game. We’ll discuss this at greater length tomorrow.