If you read Wednesday’s post, you know who Cal McCombs is. During the course of our conversation, we discussed the all-star game he works with, the Charleston, S.C.-based Medal of Honor Bowl.
I’m always interested in the inner workings of jobs in football, so I asked Cal what he found to be the hardest part of his job. He said his challenges are much the same of most NFL teams, i.e., finding impact players in the later rounds, because most of the players that come to the lower-ranked games fit that profile.
“It’s easy to find the find the first-, second- and third-rounders,” he said. “Those guys fall off the board. But finding out who can make the team in the fourth or fifth or sixth round is much more difficult.
“What we’re doing now is what we were doing at Denver. We were trying to find the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round guys, and we had 10 drafted.”
What makes it tougher is that other games can easily cannibalize the Medal of Honor Bowl’s roster. In that respect, it’s not a lot different from major-college recruiting.
“We had some other kids that would have been drafted,” Cal said. “(Senior Bowl Executive Director) Phil Savage calls me the week before our game and says, ‘I gotta take (Florida OC Max) Garcia and (Northwestern FS Ibraheim) Campbell,’ and both of those guys are drafted, and there was also one that got hurt from Florida that got drafted (and couldn’t play in the MOH Bowl), so it’s been fun finding the late-round draft picks.”
After speaking to Cal, I wanted to explore the topic further, so I reached out to a couple other friends who ran games during the ’15 draft cycle. One was Jose Jefferson, Executive Director of the College Gridiron Showcase held in Arlington last year. While he agrees with Cal on the personnel aspect of things, he sees the finances as the toughest part.
“On a business standpoint, there isn’t a great return on the money that’s needed to maintain it,” he said. “In the end, the profit center is the biggest hurdle. I would be interested to know if the investors in the (other all-star) bowls see their money back, let alone profit.
“As for players, I think that is the fun part. For us, it was getting to the lower-level scouts. They are the ones trying to prove themselves, so when you talk to them about guys, they are usually going to give you their top guy they are scouting. That’s the purpose of these games, to expose the hidden gem. (Ravens draftee) Tray Walker from Texas Southern was our highest pick from our game, fourth round. Truth be told, there is a kid as good or better than him waiting for his shot.”
I rounded it out by calling another friend, Johnny Meads, a former NFL linebacker and ex-Titans scout who is now the Midwest ‘recruiter’ (i.e., scout) for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. Johnny said identifying the talent is hard, but convincing a player to attend the NFLPA game and not wait for another call is the hardest part.
“A lot of the guys think they’re going to be at the Senior Bowl,” he said. “Everybody thinks he’s a first-round draft pick, so they’re going to hold out and wait for an invitation from them. The other thing is getting those guys to the game when they’re also playing in the (college football) playoffs, or whatever, in their conferences, and hard to get in contact with them that way. There’s a great number of things that (make it hard) to get them there. Identifying the challenges is kinda difficult, but the players themselves are tough as they’re trying to figure out who they are. Often, they’re D2 or D3 players and they think they’re all-stars.”