In the spring of 2011, I had a chance to sit down with former Cowboys scout Jim Hess for a lengthy interview. We talked about a number of topics related to scouting and the inner workings of NFL football, and it was a lot of fun both because Jim is a mentor to me (I call him one of my ‘uncles in the game’) and because he could discuss details of things and answer questions on issues like few can.
One of the topics we discussed was two players he had a chance to see during his days with the Cowboys, both undrafted wide receivers who went on to lengthy NFL careers: Miles Austin and Wes Welker. Jim really broke things down on how Welker slid through the draft, then bounced around before finding stardom with the Patriots.
Here’s a transcript of a portion of the interview:
“I don’t know as much about (ex-Cowboys, now-Browns WR) Miles Austin. He was also a free agent, but Miles had the measureables. He looks like a receiver, he’s gotten . . his frame’s filled out more, plus he had great speed and great explosion. He would be a guy, you would wonder, can we develop him? (Broncos WR) Wes Welker, I know a lot more about Wes because I personally scouted Wes. I had the Big 12, plus the Southwest and some overlapping areas, so I was at Wes Welker’s pro day.
“I don’t think Wes went to the combine, but I was at his pro day, and he didn’t look very good. He didn’t run very fast, and he’s not very big. Y’all have seen him on television, and he’s not very big. I didn’t really think I could sell him to Coach (Bill) Parcells, and I really didn’t try. I put a free agent grade on him . . . and in my write-up, in my summary, I said, ‘this guy could be a steal in the five, sixth or seventh round.’ Why? Well, he had produced. Totally produced everywhere he had been. Player of the Year in Oklahoma. All-American, or at least all-conference, at Texas Tech. Punt returner, kick returner, great hands and great quickness, but I knew Bill wouldn’t draft a guy like that. Not that small. And you have to admit, Welker, you didn’t hear of him in the pros until he got with the Patriots.
“Let me explain something to you there, too. Would you have ever heard of (NFL great) Brett Favre if it hadn’t been for (former Packers head coach) Mike Holmgren? Would you have ever heard of (NFL great) Joe Montana, if it hadn’t been for (former 49ers head coach) Bill Walsh? You can go on and on like that, and sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw and you get with the right team, the right system that knows how to utilize you. I believe Wes went to San Diego first, and nothing came out of that (Editor’s note: He went to camp with the Chargers, then spent two seasons with the Dolphins), but you can go on and on with players like that, and the league and just happened to be the marriage at the right time, and you can probably put Tony Romo in that category. Would it have been (quarterback) Tony Romo coming to the Cowboys without (former Cowboys QBs coach) Sean Payton being there? But you got a lot of that going on, but what you looked at with Wes, he had been successful at everything he’d done, and I didn’t have the guts to put a draftable grade on him, but I did in my write-up say, this might be a steal in the lower rounds. Now, when you get to the lower rounds, roll the dice, because I can’t tell. I’ll be honest. Maybe that’s one of my (weaknesses). . . I was a coach scouting, not a scout scouting.”