Two or three times every March, I try to get out and hit pro days that are not too far from me in South Houston. Monday was one of those days; I attended the workout held by Packers scout Alonzo Highsmith at Lamar University in Beaumont, about two-and-a-half hours from me.
Here are a few things I found interesting.
- Highsmith came to Beaumont to work out a handful of players, probably 10-12, who are far from blue-chip prospects. At best, two of them will be in camps, and it would be a real long shot if either get drafted. Still, Highsmith was there, doing his due diligence. That’s a real credit to him. He’s a true old-school scout who does his job the old-fashioned way, watching film and relying on his network to find undiscovered gems. He’s pretty much the antithesis of the modern view of scouting, which is moving way more to ‘analytics’ and a view of evaluation that is more related to measurables and less to what happens during a game.
- This catch has made an indelible mark on players across the country, and maybe not in a good way. It’s become so bad that I saw multiple receivers yesterday catching the ball one-handed in warmups, as if this is supposed to impress Highsmith. One kid, a transfer from a bigger school who has had multiple off-field issues and didn’t even finish the season with Lamar, caught every pass thrown his way (warmup throws, drills, tosses from the ball-boy) one-handed, as if he thinks this will translate to the NFL. Want to impress a scout? Run good routes, put up good numbers, listen to your coaches, make plays, train hard and catch everything thrown your way with two hands.
- Even though Lamar is a smallish school without a whole lot of tradition, yesterday was the school’s second of three pro days. The first was on March 10, which was run by scouts from the Texans and Chiefs. On Saturday, a Rams scout will have a workout for a handful of invited Cardinals. This is why, when it comes to college football and pursuing a chance in the NFL, geography counts. An FCS school that’s only been playing football for five years may not even have a pro day if it’s located in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest or even parts of the Northeast, but the Cardinals seniors almost have to prove they can’t play after getting three separate audiences with NFL scouts. Texas and the Southeast are different, special, when it comes to football.
- There are some parents that overdo it a little. I know they are well-intentioned, but that doesn’t help a young man’s prospects. I’ll leave it at that.
- On the way back, I stopped at a restaurant. I was wearing my ITL gear and a waiter (probably about 5-8 and wiry, around 150 pounds) noticed the logo. We had this conversation:
Waiter: “What’s that (gesturing at my shirt)? What do you do?”
Me: “I have a football consulting service. I work with agents, financial planners, combine trainers, some scouts, some coaches, some parents, lots of people who are in college and pro football.”
Waiter (eyes lighting up): “Oh really? I need to get an agent. I was supposed to play in college but I had an incident in high school.”
Me: “Where did you wind up playing in college?”
Waiter: “I didn’t. I was supposed to but I didn’t.”
Me: “Have you played since then?”
I recommended he attend an open tryout for a CFL or Arena League team. Which is to say, I probably didn’t practice what I preach, which is to tell young men like that to move on with life. I guess my strategy was for him to attend a workout, find out how long his odds are, and hope that he comes to his own realization.