Today, I came across this story from about a month ago. It deals with Nolan Teasley, a young pro scout for the Seahawks, and his climb to an internship, then to employment, with the NFC champions.
I don’t know Teasley, but the story is pretty illustrative of what it took for him to make it, and I thought it might be instructional for people reading this who are considering a career in scouting. There are a few themes here that are pretty consistent among people who are able to make it into the biz.
Think regionally: I think that living in an NFL city increases your chances of success by at least half. I remember when I got my one shot at an NFL internship in the mid-90s, I was not living in the city of the team where I had applied (New Orleans). Though I got an interview, I think it hurt me that I wasn’t seen as a guy that was nearby, which would give team officials plenty of chances to get to know me and perhaps put me to work. If you’re already in an NFL city, you have a huge advantage because it makes it so much easier to be persistent about applying, trying to meet people, make contacts, etc.
Common roots: This is related to the above point, but this story says that Teasley flooded all NFL teams with letters before finally getting traction with a scout who shared his alma mater (we have a list of scouts and alma maters here). The NFL is a relationship business, and nothing underscores the point more than the that. Just this week, I had a similar experience. I’m trying to get one of my interns a job with an NFL team, and one of my contacts mentioned that the person handling applications went to the same college as my guy. I think that gives him a big advantage. We’ll see.
Don’t wait: If you really want to go for this career, get started early. I’d say you have five years from the time you graduate college to get an NFL opportunity, or at the very least start looking for one. That’s just a guess, but I bet it’s pretty accurate. You want to be young enough to be seen as malleable by team officials. You also need to be seen as cheap to employ, because entry-level scouts don’t make much money.
A supportive wife or fiance: In 1999, I had recently met my future spouse, and simultaneously had started the service that would one day lead to ITL. I’ll never forget driving to work one day, wondering if my passion for my business could coexist with my passion for my (future) wife. If I had decided to end my engagement based on my expected profession, it would have been the biggest mistake I ever made. However, if I had not introduced that business passion to Polly, that probably would have been my second-biggest mistake ever. I know countless people who made progress toward success in football, but had to turn back due to family considerations.