Thursday night, we had the third in our four-part Zoom series with former NFL scouts and executives. Our guest was former Colts area scout Ahmad Russell, who also spent several years with the Eagles.

Here are a few things I learned from his nearly 90-minute session.

  • Scouts come from all kinds of places, but Ahmad’s story is unique. After he didn’t get any satisfactory job offers out of college and didn’t get any camp offers (he played at Colgate), he opted to to go Japan and teach. That was in August of 2001, but his 9/11 experience is another story. While in Japan, he began playing fantasy basketball, which piqued his interest in scouting and evaluation. So he went online and scanned every scout and executive bio in the NFL, noticing that several got their master’s from the UMass sport management program, so he applied (from Japan). Once he got accepted, he heavily mined the UMass network until, upon completion of his master’s, he got three NFL offers. He chose the Eagles, partially because of their success and partially because of their proximity.
  • Ahmad has several insights about the GMs and future GMs he worked with (including Howie Roseman, Chris Ballard, Jason Licht and Ryan Grigson). His insights were too many to detail here, but one thing stuck out in my mind. Ahmad said he befriended the Eagles GM during Roseman’s days as the team counsel, so when Roseman began to have a larger profile on the evaluation side, Ahmad already had a relationship with him. That was beneficial for a number of reasons. I respect Ahmad for having time for Roseman before he was part of his chain of command. Never forget: it’s a relationship business.
  • We’ve been discussing the 2016 draft each week, and it’s been really illuminating. For example, say what you will about how teams value triangle numbers vs. film, but Ahmad was the latest scout to cite speed in explaining why Ohio State WO Michael Thomas fell to the second round. He likewise pointed to speed in why Baylor WO Corey Coleman was the first receiver off the board. As you know, Coleman is no longer in the league. Speed is sexy, and scouts are human. That’s all there is to it.
  • Cowboys QB Dak Prescott is known as a high-character player and a leader of men, but Ahmad may deserve some of the credit. He told the story of when he interviewed Prescott at the Senior Bowl and confronted him about several off-field issues that surfaced during the evaluation phase. Ahmad even said he called Prescott a “thug” in the interview session. To Prescott’s credit, he took the hard conversation to heart, and the results have been clear.
  • Ahmad is the first scout to cop to his team trying to move up to take Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil during his famous slide. He said he recalls trying to strike a deal with the Saints, who picked 12. When the teams couldn’t strike a deal, the Dolphins moved up to 13 by trading with the Eagles.
  • Due to his domestic assault charges, the Colts had taken West Alabama WO Tyreek Hill completely off their board. He was a no-draft for Indy.

Next week, we conclude our series with former Raiders scout Raleigh McKenzie. It’s gonna be a blast. Want in? Click here. We’ve recorded all four of our sessions (ex-Rams scout Danton Barto in Week 1 and former Bills GM Doug Whaley in Week 2). If you’d like the first three videos and a chance to sit in next week, click here.

For more on the business of football, make sure to register for the Friday Wrap.