For today’s War Story Wednesday, here’s a segment from an interview I did with former Saints area scout James Jefferson (you can view the entire interview here). In today’s post, I’ll share his thoughts on how an area scout can gather information from a college’s pro liaison, especially when a player may have skeletons in his closet.
I’m going to break it into subheads and categorize it a bit because there’s a lot here.
Experienced scouts have connections: “I was fortunate enough to be around a lot of coaches, and I was fortunate to coach at the college level, I was fortunate enough to play in the NFL, and do all these things, so you start getting to read a lot of people. The sports world is not always straightforward, and that’s football, basketball, baseball, doesn’t make a difference. That’s not saying just football.”
Every school has its own philosophy, and some are more generous with information than others: “It depends on what organization you go to. I’ve been to some places where the coach will tell you everything. Everything. They’ll you in and tell you everything, whether he knows you or not. I’ve been to some places where I had to know a guy to get information. Then I’ve been to places where I know a guy, but I also gotta respect the fact that his head guy does not want anything negative said, period, negative being relative. I don’t know what negative is. A young man is going out, he’s done something to get himself put in jail, why is that negative? That’s reality. It’s not negative.”
One way or another, teams are gonna find the dirt on players: “I’m sure it hit the papers somewhere. Maybe not, but we’re going to find that out anyway eventually. Every team’s got its security guy. The NFL works that way, so (when schools) think that they can honestly blow smoke and we’re falling for it. . . .”
Knowing people has its benefits: “I’ve been to a place where, and I gotta be careful with this . . . I’m not trying to get anybody in trouble, but I’ve been to a place where the case was that they couldn’t say anything, so I went and talked to this guy, and I went by myself. And he told me, ‘look, James, you know where I am and what I can’t do,’ and I said, ‘I gotcha,’ but he says, ‘look, come in here with the group of scouts.’ Most of the scouts try to talk to the guy all at one time, and if you know him, you get him by yourself, and he’ll give you a little bit extra. Well, I knew him, and I didn’t want to put him out like that and get him in trouble, so I go in there with the rest of the guys. But he said, ‘if somebody asks if somebody got in trouble, I’m gonna tell (them) “I don’t know, and you’re going to have to look that up,” but if (my friend) . . . turned to me, and he winked (his) eye, it meant, ‘check it out.’ But that’s because I had that rapport. A lot of other scouts have a different rapport with any of these coaches, and what have you.”
Treat pro liaisons well, and they’ll treat you well: “You have to be careful. You don’t want to get those guys in trouble. (Scouts) don’t work (at those schools). Me doing my job, and this guy loses his job, and he’s got a family, that doesn’t . . . But some of those guys, it’s a ruthless business both ways, and I’m not gonna say some scouts not gonna hang someone out there, but I couldn’t. I could never sleep at night.
Once again, experience and connections matter: “I try to get as much information as possible. Of course, if you know the guy, you’re going to get the information, but if not, you’re going to have to work a lot harder, but that’s where it comes into play. If you know a scout that knows a guy, that becomes a lot more beneficial. But you can’t alienate scouts, either. One day, (they) may be sitting on the other side of the table.”