Today, former NFL and CFL scout Ken Moll gives us his account, in extreme detail, of a typical week for an area scout.
If you’re a football fan, I’m sure it sounds glamorous to travel to schools like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Florida State and Alabama to evaluate players. OK, maybe it is a little glamorous.
On the other hand, try checking in and out of four hotels in five nights while traveling through West Virginia. That junket might involve a Morgantown-to-Glenville-State stretch (both places Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez has coached), possibly checking out a free agent at Concord College or Fairmont State after (or before) a stop in Huntington. From there, it’s a several-hour trip to Blacksburg, Va., to attend a Saturday afternoon Virginia Tech game.
The next morning is Sunday. Time to get some sleep? Not quite. I need to catch up on my player reports (which I work on 2-3 hours a night during the week), then it’s usually laundry day and getting my travel expenses together while settling in to watch my team play on Sunday afternoon.
Come Monday, I start my day usually 7:15 a.m.-ish (no later than 8) with a trip to the school’s film room. At some point, I may thank heavens that we live in the digital age; the old-timers tell stories of having to splice 16 mm film together when it broke after running plays back numerous times.
After 3-4 game tapes (on each side of the ball) and several cups of coffee, it’s time to visit with the trainer, strength coach and pro liaison. These information-gathering meetings may take place in consecutive stints, but they’re most likely chopped up throughout the day (as you’re on their time schedule). It takes time to decipher which information is reliable and which isn’t; it’s a wonder why some within an organization wouldn’t be totally forthright when discussing one of their own, but I digress. Sometimes it’s tricky deciding which information will be part of your official report. This is why experience is extremely important when covering a territory, as relationships built over time tend to produce the most reliable information. That’s important when you’re evaluating not only their game tape, but their injuries, character, weight room numbers and work ethic.
Along the way, you might get an hour to grab lunch before practice. Sometimes, your lunchtime occurs when you have to vacate the film room for a team’s positional meetings before practice.
Practice is approximately two-plus hours (depending on the day of the week) and a great time for up-close access to players you have scrutinized on tape most of the day. You always make note of body types, i.e., high-cut, short arms, soft body, etc., while getting a feel for work ethic and how a player reacts to the ups and downs of competing in practice. You can really see how quickly a quarterback releases the ball, the closing burst of a cornerback, or the ‘get-off’ burst of a defensive end when evaluating a live practice. You also get to see how a player reacts to coaches’ criticism as well as how he relates to his teammates (is he a leader?).
There are other subtleties you can pick up. How does he treat the student trainer when he needs to have his ankle taped during the middle of practice? How does he relate to the assistant (to the assistant) equipment manager that has to fix his face mask after a grueling hit in a live goal-line drill?
Most scouts leave the practice field at the beginning of the ‘team’ period; often the college coaches prefer it that way as they are installing game plans, trick plays, etc. and the pace may be a little slower.
If you’re lucky, travel to your next destination is less than an hour, but often it’s much more than that. Your routine becomes checking into the hotel, getting some grub, then maybe catching some relaxation time. After that, what do you think you do with all those notes and information gathered during the day? You got it. You get on the computer and usually bang out at least a couple of hours of reports before you get some shut-eye. The next morning, sometime before daybreak, you get ready to do it all over again.
If this sound glamorous, you’re ‘approved’ to proceed with your dreams of becoming an NFL scout. And maybe a little crazy.