Dan Hatman was in his 20s, working as a pro scout for the Eagles, a few short years after making $17,000 a year (with no benefits) as an intern, when he realized there was a need for The Scouting Academy.
“It was 2012, and we were in camp with the Eagles. We had seven interns in camp. One had worked for a football team, one was a college player, and one had a crazy story who’s now the Director of Player Personnel at a major university.
“The back end of the (90-man camp roster) was hammered with injuries, and we were having trouble keeping our defensive line healthy and working that third unit. We had exhausted the (undrafted free agent) pool, and we needed to scout the (Arena Football League) for guys, so we got AFL film and had to grind that. These seven had made it through the door, and they didn’t know what to look for in a defensive lineman. While they’re watching the film, they liked sacks and size, but (we) needed a guy who could look for the mechanics. We (the Eagles) wanted a guy that wouldn’t get other players injured. The mechanisms we were looking for . . . what kind of athletic ability did they need? What kind of size?
“(Most of the interns) didn’t have a baseline for comparison, and they brought me a list of 25 guys that they thought could make it.”
The fact that seven people working for an NFL team — people that were barely removed from the scouting department — identified 25 players from the AFL that they thought could play pro football was an epiphany for Hatman.
“We ended up finding one guy, and we brought him in,” Hatman said. “Anyway, it was illuminating to me. I had seven human beings at my disposal, and we needed one guy for a week or two, and we still almost couldn’t find any.
“So I started asking myself, how do you do this online? The more people I talked to, the more people jumped at the cause, and wanted people coming in to be better developed.”
It was just a few months later that Hatman founded The Scouting Academy. Today, the Academy boasts of several big NFL names (former Bears GM Jerry Angelo, Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and former Browns head coach Chris Palmer among them) that help the Academy’s students learn X’s and O’s from people who do it for a living.
In January, at the 2016 Senior Bowl, Hatman will take 30 Scouting Academy students to Mobile, Ala., to spend a week watching film, grading the players and networking. Fifteen of those in attendance will be from the Academy’s rolls, and 15 more will be former NFL players learning the ropes so they, too, can one day become part of an NFL team’s war room.
“Our hope is that we can take those guys that have that passion (for scouting), so that if they get that chance, they have the tools to do it well,” Hatman said.