If you weren’t among the crowd at the second annual 2019 College Gridiron Showcase Scouting Workshop Presented by Inside the League, I’m really sorry you. It was a chance to not only meet a real-live NFL evaluator — Cowboys Assistant Director of College Scouting Chris Hall — but it was a chance to truly learn about the business.
When I asked Chris to speak at our event, I hoped for two things: he’d say “yes,” and he’d give us a half-hour. However, when he agreed to come, I never dreamed he’d far exceed 30 minutes. In fact, Chris went almost two hours in discussing his path from intern in the team’s scouting department to key member of the team’s braintrust almost 30 years later.
If you weren’t there (or even if you were), you can review his impressive discussion, in its entirety, here. If you don’t want to wade through it all, here are a few points Chris made that really resonated with me.
- Trades remembered and forgotten: In his 29 years, Chris has worked with Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer and Bill Parcells, and has seen the depths as well as Super Bowl victories. He was also on the team for the Herschel Walker deal, which was historic. He pointed out, however, that the Steve Walsh trade was almost as much of a bounty, while the Cowboys also struck out on trades, citing the Stan Smagala trade. I think his point was that no one bats 1.000 when it comes to wheeling and dealing.
- College coaches used to make the best scouts: In the old days, you hired ex-coaches to scout for you because they knew the players and the schools. Today, it’s less important because film has become so much more available and the Internet makes the country so much smaller.
- Everyone considers quitting: Chris came very close to leaving the Cowboys to pursue a masters in advertising at SMU. He made it clear that everyone has their time of disappointment and burnout. A fortuitous staff change inspired Chris to stay. For you, it might be different. The key is to figure out how to press on.
- It’s a game of space now: It’s important to keep up with the changes dictated by the game. Though Dallas is seen as a power-running team, its scouts have focused on speed and athleticism on defense to match up with modern trends on offense.
- Don’t miss kids in your backyard: Chris said the Cowboys really focus on Texas schools because the team takes pride in the state and doesn’t want to be beaten by local players.
- Write thank you notes: During the portion of his discussion aimed at aspiring scouts, he said it’s incredibly important to thank people in the business by writing actual thank you notes (yes, pen and paper). Chris is the second person I’ve heard say that exactly. As you build your network, don’t forget to do this.
- Draft pundits can tell you what the league thinks about a player: I’ve never thought about it this way, but Chris said he believes the bigger names in the media (McShay, Kiper, Mayock) talk to enough people to give a general summation of who’s hot and who’s not.
- Character is subjective: You have to know the position group on your team before you know if a player will fit in, and before you know if you should draft him. That’s also a theme in Michael Holley’s book, War Room, which I highly recommend.
If you weren’t there, there’s always next year, and we hope to see you then.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the College Gridiron Showcase or the business of pro and college football in general, make sure you register for the Friday Wrap. It comes out this evening, and it’s must-read info for thousands of people in the game. You can register for it here. Here’s last week’s edition.