After a few conversations with scouts, here are a couple of observations about the business and how, perhaps, to land a position in scouting and, once you’ve got it, how to keep it.

  • One scout told me the biggest part of his job is getting a GM, head coach or other superior to see what he’s seen and likes. In other words, when the scouting staff is watching film, it’s important the team sees film of a prospect not when he’s hurt, but when he’s healthy. If a team looks at a player when he’s coming off an ankle injury, or has a bum shoulder, or whatever, the opinion of his ability will be very different from when he was at full strength. This scout takes a personal interest in seeing that such film is what goes on the screen. I know of another scout who got a player drafted because he went back to the player’s junior-year film, when the young man was playing his best position, rather than focusing solely on what the player was doing as a senior. That scout received a promotion this year, and it was well-deserved. That’s way more than just doing the minimum. You’ve got to make sure the player is seen in his best light. That’s how you find stars that are off other teams’ radars.
  • In talking to agents, I hear a lot about how a player’s off-field issues don’t matter or at least don’t matter as much. In speaking to a scout recently, he made it clear off-field is as important as on. It’s because getting to class, getting to meetings on time, taking the steps to stay healthy, learning the playbook, being where you’re supposed to be, and everything else ‘outside the lines’ is what keeps you successful inside them. It shows maturity and a successful personality. Coaches in the NFL lack the bandwidth to be on a kid all day every day just to make sure he does what he’s supposed to.
  • I know of a scout who’s looking for a helper, an assistant, and he said he’s made a point of looking for someone who has paid his dues, working for free at times and changing places (jobs, schools) in his campaign to get to the NFL. “That guy isn’t going to expect anything to be handed to him,” my friend said. “He will know that he must work hard without me telling him.”
  • Believe it or not, scouts are not given carte blanche by some agents, and certainly by many college teams. I heard today of an agent who told a high-level scout he couldn’t have access to a draft-eligible player. “Tell me what you want and I’ll get it from him,” this agent told the scout. It’s no surprise his client went undrafted despite being among the top prospects at his position. If you represent a player, do everything possible to satisfy requests made by NFL teams. Don’t do anything to have your client taken off the board, as this agent’s client was.